The vocal minority. Let’s discuss

Whichever term you choose to label this group, the reality is they can be a real threat to the progress and ultimate success of your project.  

Let’s set the scene.  

You are embarking on an initiative or project and a small group of people are vehemently against it. They start to spread misinformation and this small group starts to grow.  

Their voices are loud, and they are using every means to garner support – letterbox drops, speaking up at community forums, social media, mainstream media, etc.  

What do you do? You start countering their ‘misinformation’ with ‘your truth’… more facts… but this creates a backfire effect

The community is now suffering from information overload, the misinformation is getting a lot of air-time and it is hard to separate fact from fiction.  

Let’s pause.

Sound familiar? The examples of similar scenarios are endless – most recently and prominently with the uprising of the QAnon conspiracy theorists.

So, what can you do? The following tips are a guide to help you better navigate this situation.

Develop and repeat a strong narrative

Cognitive science research shows that repeating misinformation may lead people to overestimate how widely accepted it is in the broader community.The more often we hear it, the more we start to think others believe it too.

This works in reverse – the more we hear the truth, the more we are inclined to believe it.

Build a positive narrative tailored to your community and critical stakeholders that debunks the myths without reiterating them.

In short, focus on the facts, don’t give air-time to the misinformation and repeat your positive messaging over and over again. 

Listen and build trust

While people are open to letting in new information, their standard response is to treat that information skeptically.

With that in mind, provide a forum (or a variety of forums) for issues to be raised and when it’s appropriate, share your positive narrative to address concerns.

Make sure you read the room. Listen actively and understand what your community is trying to tell you.Ask clarifying questions and seek out ideas and feedback before making firm decisions.

Listening builds trust, but make sure you also deliver on your promises and remain transparent in your dealings with the community.  

Enlist advocates and ambassadors

Research highlights that people are more likely to believe misinformation if it comes from a source they trust (e.g. another community member vs government or business).To compound this, we are inherently social and we often put aside our differences to get along with others.

To navigate this, consider recruiting key, trusted community members to help spread your narrative (instead of the negative ones). Building a community of supporters will have a positive flow on effect and help to rein in the doubters  

On a final note The reality is you will never be able to get everyone 100 per cent on board. The vocal minority will always exist.

Set realistic benchmarks and measure your success against these.

Benchmarks might include but are not limited to:

  • Changes to community perceptions.
  • Representation of diverse groups within the community.
  • Participation at events and forums.
  • Engagement on social media.
  • Partnerships forged with external groups and organisations.
  • Project completion or changes.