From reactive informant to proactive superhero - how social actors should work

Published May 10, 2023, 1 p.m. by Helena Kämpe Fredén

How do we communicate in a society with a growing sense of exclusion? For many social actors, a divided and fragmented world poses the greatest challenges. So what can you do in terms of reach? Make sure to tell your own story, own it and become a proactive superhero instead of a reactive informant, says Helena Kämpfe Fredén and Melker Forssén at Spoon Agency.

Are you in or are you out? If we consider a sense of affinity to be a founding block of democracy in today’s society, that view has sadly become somewhat muddled. Today, a lot of people experience some type of societal exclusion. For example, Swedish Ungdomsbarometern for 2022 reported a widespread negative idea amongst young people when asked about where today’s society is headed.

Online desinformation is spreading

At the same time, online desinformation is spreading and gaining foothold easily somewhere along this vast flow of information. In recent years, the function of social services has been exposed to deceptive campaigns saying how they’re kidnapping Muslim children without legal support. Earlier this year, social services retaliated by launching their own campaign on TikTok. Its purpose was to present a more just reflection of their actual work.

But is it enough to be reactive? According to Myndigheten för psykologiskt försvar, MPF, these types of deceitful campaigns won’t go away any time soon. And there’s really no reason to believe that the specific campaign that was targeting social services was the beginning of the end. On the contrary – digital filter bubbles are very efficient in creating new breeding grounds for desinformation.

From reactive to proactive

So, how can a social actor work in order to own their narrative instead of replying reactively when disaster strikes?

When it comes to always on communication, a well-thought out framework is a prerequisite in order to lead the debate instead of commenting on it afterwards. Many actors tend to focus on campaigns that shine the brightest and are loudest during a set period of time. What they should be doing instead is put effort into continuously creating content tailored for the needs of different target groups. That way, you’re always there leading the narrative instead of letting someone grab the microphone from your hands.

Social actors should copy commercial actors

Social actors would be wise to glance at commercial businesses. The annual Edelmans förtroenderapport (2023) clearly shows that the trust gap between businesses and governments is widening around the world, compared to last year. According to the Edelman report, companies are considered to be the leading social developers today. The general consensus is also that companies should be doing even more when it comes to dealing with things like climate change, economic inequality and labour retraining.

How did we end up here, putting that kind of trust in companies?

One answer could be that companies have been investing a lot of time and effort into their communication around sustainability, in order to show which ways they’re dealing with the problem.

Commercial brands deserves trust from the public

Government bodies have a lot to learn when it comes to major companies and their communication. Commercial brands invested heavily into purpose-driven marketing during the past decade. They’re very clear with what they’re saying, and they present proof of everything they do. They’ve simply deserved this type of trust from the public.

The constant buzzing of the communication landscape makes it a tough task to stand out – even for the socially important actors. That’s why the result of the Swedish Förtroendebarometern, measuring trust in government bodies, is so positive because it shows that the trust for government bodies is still high in general. And there’s no surprise that we find the ones being extra clear with their communication at the top of the list.

Citizen trust and communication investment is connected. If you’re not communicating clearly with your target groups, there’s always someone else ready to take over.

Helena Kämpfe Fredén, Communication Strategist, Spoon Agency
Melker Forssén, Chief Creative Director, Spoon Agency

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