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Anybody out there?

The July PedBikeTrans seminar looked at communicating effectively to maximise the reach of our message. Ronsley Vaz gave us food for thought on the importance of 'voice' in creating a movement. Ronsley is an author, his podcasts are followed by a massive global audience, and he is the founder of audio marketing agency Amplify which gives brands a voice.

As someone who is not a transport professional or even someone with an interest in the field, Ronsley started the session by asking the audience why people should walk or cycle more. Of course, the audience responded promptly with multiple reasons from reducing air pollution to improving equity. For Ronsley, these were unknown reasons. As he explained, the facts we know are not a matter of fact for everyone!

To bring about change it is vital to reach people who are not in the know, and convince them to change. We need people to join the movement! For Ronsley, the secret to creating a movement is to access the connections and encourage conversations. Convincing people of the value of a movement generally happens in conversations, as this provides an authentic connection experience where people can assess whether they can share the same values of a movement.

Creating a movement that brings about a growth in active travel is a goal of most professionals involved with PedBikeTrans. But to create this movement we need to move beyond just talking to those who already feel the same way. There is a need to reach those who don't agree, but may be open to change. This requires us to listen - so that we can speak in the language that the listener understands and values. Conversation is not just about explaining ourselves better but about listening better.

A few other key ideas from the session:

  • Encourage people to tell their stories; what is the problem that they are trying to solve

  • After listening, we should have a pitch that we can use to readily explain why walking and cycling is useful to help address their problem

  • The explanation should be simple enough for others to repeat – make it simple

  • Stories are useful for convincing an audience, sharing stories of real people who find benefit in walking and cycling can convince others in similar situations to consider it

The session sparked discussion and debate about how effective our current communication is on active travel. Are we targeting the right audience, or are we just preaching to the converted? Is our behaviour change message getting traction if our infrastructure does not support walking and cycling? How effective is our message in reaching decision-makers, planners and engineers - are we communicating how active travel can effectively address their issues?

What was clear was that, although the attendees all have different backgrounds, we all want the same thing - a movement that brings about improved active travel. Thanks to Ronsley for sharing his time and ideas, we definitely benefited from considering how our message could be amplified.

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