I went to an event at Red Bay Coffee recently. It was titled “The Impact of Coffee Crisis on Communities & the Border Crisis.” It was targeted to consumers and ultimately, both illuminating and thought provoking to me. Attendance was 50/50 in consumers and industry professionals.

I’ve seen people lament about how social media snippets don’t fully convey the seriousness and extent of the coffee crisis. And it’s absolutely a privilege that I’m able to sift through information, attend events, and have direct access to people who are patient enough to explain things to me. What I want to argue, though, is that these snippets are necessary to bringing people into awareness of an issue.

I’ve read articles. I’ve listened to podcasts. I’ve read short social media snippets. I’ve even read through Twitter threads. But nothing truly clicked and stayed with me until I read pieces directed at consumers and attended the event directed at consumers.

Of course, I left the event with lots of questions swirling around in my head. But now that I have some basis for these questions, I can go back to those articles and podcasts I didn’t quite understand before.

I wasn’t in the marketing business 20 years ago. But I can still tell you that because there are so many different ways of reaching people now that you can’t possibly believe marketing tactics haven’t changed. We consume things in smaller bites. We have different media types available. Lamenting about how people aren’t understanding something doesn’t mean they don’t want to learn. Maybe it’s the approach that’s all wrong.

This critique is not aimed at the coffee crisis and communication around it. Science communicators deal with this challenge all the time: how do we break down something so complex into parts that those not in the field will understand? It’s a communication skill that has to be worked on.

My challenge to you is to ask yourself if your communication strategy has levels of consumer awareness.

  • What are the first snippets people see to bring them into awareness of a topic?
  • Are these snippets repeated? (Learning is ongoing and you won’t usually get them at the first post)
  • Now that they have some basics, what’s the next thing they should know?
  • At each level of awareness, what are the expected takeaways?
  • Okay, now that they’re aware, what’s next? Action? More education? Support a cause?

Do a little mapping of your own and see where you stand.