Episode 11: Lessons from Giving a Hoot (Part 2)

WiseOwl PH
7 min readSep 22, 2021

Communication is powerful. So let’s talk about it!

Mika, Oya, and Joza discuss what they’ve learned from speaking with their guests in season one and from challenging their own assumptions. This is the second part of the season-ender.

MIKA: There was this one quote by Malcolm Gladwell before. He said something like activism is not for the faint of heart. And I would say even communication for social change is not for the faint of heart.

OYA: Hi I’m Oya.

JOZA: I’m Joza.

MIKA: And I’m Mika.

OYA: We are WiseOwl.

MIKA: WiseOwl is a consultancy firm that specializes in communication for social change.

With pioneering Philippine podcast network PumaPodcast, we created this show that you’re listening to. Give A Hoot! Because we believe communication is powerful. And so, we’ve been talking to strategists, advocates, academics, creatives, and others about precisely this. Making impact through communication.

In today’s episode, the last of season one, we’ll do things a bit differently.
Join the three of us Owls as recap the lessons we’ve learned this season,
and figure out how to apply them.

Let’s start with LESSON 1: Your audience has agency. Don’t think of them as beneficiaries or recipients of noble goals, but as partners. They are part of the change you want to see.

MIKA: This circles back to one of the themes that we’re seeing, no? It’s a lesson in humility — huumility on the sense na hindi lang ikaw yung nakakaalam ng lahat. Kumbaga walang heroes dito. Lahat tayo part of it. And that’s part of parang communicating for social change eh.

JOZA: Ang dali kasi as communicators to assume or as advocates na we know na kung ano yung messages that need to be put out there. But this whole experience talking about the masa and understanding talaga who they are where they’re coming from, allowed us to parang treat them nga as hindi sila recipients lang. And so kahit na iniisip natin na tayo yung experts in communication, actually sila yung mas experts don. Mas exciting and mas effective yung mga ideas na nabubuo kapag kasama yung audience sa pagbuo nung ideas at nung mga kampanya na yun. Kasi meron silang buy-in. Feeling nila meron silang totoong stake at meron silang part dun sa change na binubuo nyo as partners nga.

MIKA: I really like that point Joz. Na it’s not about you. [laughs]

JOZA: It’s about me. [laughs]

MIKA: The listening thing and making sure that our audiences are part of it and all of that stuff, it’s not particularly new wisdom.

OYA: Yeah.

MIKA: I think it’s just really about time na we also do it as advocates. If hope is a muscle, empathy is a muscle, listening to your audience is a muscle [laughs] Remembering that your audience they’re humans, muscle. [laughs] And you have to keep at it. Like you can’t just do it once and then never again no.

OYA: At the same time kasi when you do that you listen you respect everybody’s ideas, they feel they are heard, you’re actually demonstrating the kind of change you want to see.

MIKA: LESSON 2: Emotions, not facts, motivate actions. To change minds, we need to change hearts first.

OYA: Also, when we say you have to tap into emotions, it doesn’t have to be like drama and everything. We just mean it has to be resonant. Let’s say it’s about let’s say smoking. Or cutting down on fat or something like that. When you tell them na it’s a risk to your health etcetera etcetera, people know this, they know this already but they still do it. But if you tap into like the things that they value let’s say do it for your family. How is it going to be if they lose you? Then it becomes more resonant, and they’ll think about it a little bit more.

MIKA: LESSON 3: Communication cannot exist outside of its context, and it has to reflect the world at large.

OYA: While communication can achieve a lot, there are like barriers or contextual factors that cannot be solved by, or problems even, that can’t be solved by communication alone.

MIKA: It has to work with programs. It has to work with policy. It has to work with all of the different ways we’re doing this. Building community etcetera etcetera. So it’s in synergy with all of our efforts.

JOZA: Hindi ka pwedeng continuously magcommunicate about hope. Or gawin yung hope-based communication without actually trying to fix yung mga barriers. At saka yung mga problema na kinakaharap ng mga tao on the ground.

MIKA: Which is also part of communication strategies like is it believable?

OYA: Yeah. Or even when you’re doing your communication planning you’re realistic to say na hanggang dito ang magagawa ng communication because we’re cognizant of these barriers.

MIKA: While communication is important, it is part of the strategy, It’s not the last thing. You cannot treat t ialso communication as like a firefighting thing lang.

LESSON 4: Interdisciplinary conversations are important. Don’t just talk to people in the same industry as you are. Reach out.

JOZA: Actually nagstart sa podcast experience na to na. Mas malalim at mas maganda yung ideas na lumalabas kapag nakikipag-usap tayo sa researchers, kapwa advocates. Tas iba’t ibang sectors. Sa masa.

MIKA: Someone else is an expert in it. Or someone else knows more about it cause they’ve lived through it, they’ve experienced it, they practiced it.

JOZA: For a creative slash communicator working on a halimbawa human rights or conservation project. Kung ako lang yung mag-iisip ng concepts hindi sing lalim kumpara sa kung nakipag-usap ako sa kung conservation project to, experts on the environment, sa community on the ground. Ano yung mga problema nila? Bakit hindi nila napoprotektahan yung environment na around them? Mas lumalalim at mas tumatama yung message compared sa kung ako lang yung gagawa.

MIKA: For inspiration to work you have to have multiple sources of inspiration. Kasi you don’t know where those insights are gonna come from. Kasi sometimes the insight can come from a very obscure conversation you had with your Grab driver. And that can happen. And so parang basically have a life.

OYA: Yun nga yung problema ngayon ng maraming advocates, nasa echo chamber because they only talk to people who think like them.

JOZA: Pero marami kang matututunan actually from people na may ibang ibang take on issues or on on ideas on concepts. For example … Raffy Tulfo. Andaling sabihin na parang ha hindi naman reliable source of information yan etcetera etcetera. Pero people are actually listening to this person. So are there things that tayo as communicators, as advocates pwede nating matutunan kung ano yung approach na nagwowork?

OYA: Parang yung parang wag mong idismiss na tanga yan or evil yan. There is something na they believe in that is good and that leads them to hold a particular opinion or do a certain action. You have to be able to understand that di ba?

MIKA: Yeah. Those conversations are very important. The people you disagree with. You cannot dismiss them, they are parang hindi sila counted out [laughs] Kasi I think I think also the Joza said lesson in humility, but also like honesty with yourself din. Parang you have to be honest with yourself about what you are capable of and even for example you’re having those kinds of conversations with the people you disagree with, hindi rin naman pwedeng nag-aagree agree ka lang sa kanila bigla na parang hindi mo rin pa ba- paglaban yung pinaniniwalaan mo. No this is communication for social change. You have a stand. There is a certain kind of impact you believe needs to happen. Pero in order to do that meron talagang necessary friction that goes along you know with the process.

Last but not the least. Keep in mind that other communicators are delivering different messages too. And when people receive these messages, they automatically form an understanding of everything around them. That is what a narrative is. An understanding of the world.

I think Joza asked Wati this nung sa Masa episode. About pasaway. Pasaway is a narrative. So the more na you see images and stories of people who seem like they’re violating quarantine. And you’re seeing more and more of those things, from social media, from the news, from maybe politicians who are talking about it, then that becomes the narrative. Na merong group of people na pasaway. We need to be aware na that’s happening.

JOZA: Pero those narratives katulad yung mga pasaway, yung mas hopeful na version, kaya bang buuin yung ganung klaseng narrative?

OYA: I think so. Narratives naman are not static eh. They’re not rigid. I think that’s a very important discussion that advocates and communicators should have.

MIKA: People are always talking about okay how are we gonna approach communication? How are we gonna change narratives?

OYA: Parang ang daming mga facets of narratives that we need to delve into na parang himayin natin yan i-unpack natin yan. Ano ba talaga yung mga components of a narrative? Yun nga, papano ba sya nag-ooperate? Papano ba sya na-eerode? Papano na sya nasestrengthen din di ba? It’s a subject that we have to delve into. We have to inspect very carefully. Dissect ganyan.

MIKA: So basically ang communication parang palaka. Okay [laughs]

OYA: Yeah [laughs]

MIKA: Yun pala yung conclusion. That ends season one of Give A Hoot. Palaka ang communication. [laughs]

And that concludes the last episode of season one of Give A Hoot. A PumaPodcast production.

We’ve learned about what it really takes to communicate for social change. That although the world gets more complex and difficult to understand, our work to listen to each other and create communities becomes more relevant than ever.

Thanks again to the people who made this possible, specifically PumaPodcast, the Spark Project, and our backers. Shoutout to our producer Diosa Quinones, our audio editor Niko Bolante, and Tricia Aquino for editorial support. And most of all, to you, our listeners.

Watch out for season two, where we talk about narratives. How powerful are they? Are they as negligible as people think? How do we use them to build the world we want to see?

OYA: I’m Oya.
JOZA: I’m Joza.
MIKA: And I’m Mika.
JOZA: Look for WiseOwl PH on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Medium. You can visit our website wiseowl.ph. We’d love to hear from you. Send your feedback to hoot@wiseowl.ph.

MIKA: Use your voice. Give a hoot!