October 6th was Challenge Day at F.H. Collins. I was there as one of the twenty-five facilitators, with 100 grade eight students and 40 student mentors. It was a day of breaking down barriers, playing get-to-know-each-other games, small group sharing "if you really knew me, you would know that...”, and finally a revealing of very personal issues in a crossing-the-line activity. You might ask why a brand communications strategist would be there whooping and hollering “I feel good,” giving out hundreds of hugs and sharing the love and tears of the day. I did ask myself that in the morning, but as the day went on I was totally caught up in the event. To learn more about what actually happened, visit www.challengeday.org
I am always challenged by how to communicate so that you are heard, understood, and able to change someone’s mind or attitude. We are working on a project targeting graduating students with the message to have a substance-free grad. After much research on underage drinking and the inevitable parties that surround graduation time, I was beginning to despair about developing a successful campaign concept. Despite the fact that there is so much information and messaging already about the consequences of binge drinking, our teens still do it.
F.H. Collins vice-principal, Christine Klaassen St. Pierre, invited me to facilitate up-coming Challenge Day when I was interviewing her for this project. That’s how it happened that I was there breaking down my own barriers and judgments, learning to understand, respect and, yes, love our youth. I came to believe that they are good, smart, and that they have the capacity to change and make the right choices. Fear, separation, isolation, and loneliness are so much a part of their lives and the root of almost every destructive behaviour.
“Knowing our audience” has a whole new meaning for me. We need to open our human side, and realize the issues are deeper than we think. A dialogue with the audience that comes from acceptance, love and respect gives a whole new perspective and hope on which to build a message that has potential to make a difference.