“How Are You Going To Get A Job With A Major Like Communications?”

Communication, as a pillar for creating social change, is vital within its nature of inspiring and spreading knowledge. The role of communication to create social change by closing the power gap, is seen in the impact that communication campaigns have had on issues that are highly stigmatized and require knowledge dissemination, such as the AIDS epidemic. The role of communication campaigns for AIDS is crucial, as unsuccessful campaigns can create confusion on ways to prevent spreading and further stigmatized individuals that have contracted the disease. In contrast to successful communication campaigns, the success of spreading knowledge, is seen within campaigns that utilize key aspects such as truth telling and spreading cultural knowledge. The importance of successful AIDS communication campaigns, can mean the difference between life and death, as communication is the only cure to the epidemic.
The nature of communication campaigns within the AIDS epidemic vary, depending on the success of the campaign and such nature can be utilized to look at successful and unsuccessful campaigns for creating social change overall. Unsuccessful campaigns, follow the nature of being information or fear based. Highly informational campaigns attempt to act in the role of filling an information gap, while the AIDS epidemic circulates around a disenfranchisement and stigmatization that has created a power gap. In attempts to inform audiences, unsuccessful AIDS campaigns, ignore the necessary need to bridge the power gap and don’t inform citizens of the social dangers of stigmatizing individuals with AIDS. Communication AIDS researcher, Thomas Scalway, states that “social communication is necessary to bridge the motivational gap between AIDS prevention activities and behavioural change” (Scalway 2003).
An example of unsuccessful social communication, due to the nature of over focusing on information, is the “Just Say No” drugs campaign disseminated into schools across North America. The campaign provides information about drug use but does not target the stigmatization around people of unfortunate circumstances that have become addicted to drugs. This focus on purely information based communication doesn’t target policy change, which is the foundation of the nature of successful campaigning. Scalway states that “ while information is vital, past successes in fighting AIDS suggests that approaches need to be far broader than this”. Campaigns for social change must contain more than purely informational content in order to affect the public.
Further than the “Just Say No” campaign being solely information based, the campaigns utilized fear mongering as a principle in stopping kids from taking drugs. The usage of fear within social communication change, however is uneffective across varying issues including fear based AIDS campaigns. The German company, Das Comittee’s AIDS campaign for AIDS awareness day in 2009, exemplifies the problems with utilizing fear based campaigning to scare audiences into not having unprotected sex. The campaign used photo’s of historically known dictators, Saddam Hussein, Adolf Hitler, and Stalin, having unprotected sex with women, with the words “AIDS is a mass murderer protect yourself” appearing at the bottom of the campaigns videos and advertisements. The campaign was received as highly unsuccessful, offensive and socially discredited people with AIDS by equating them with mass murderers. This campaign does not work towards changing public opinion but instead only further stigmatizes the disease. “Just Say No” drug awareness campaigns and AIDS campaigns such as Das Comittee’s describes the problems with using information based or fear based advertising to create social change.
The nature of successful social change campaigns, revolve around a systematic attempt to create policy change further than behavioural change. Scalway states that successful “communication for social change should be empowering, horizontal (versus top down), give a voice to the previously unheard members of the community and be biased towards local content and ownership” (Scalway 2003). Campaigns that utilize these aspects of social change communication for AIDS prevention, can be seen in the Turvy campaign, Pinocchio video, and the #dutchkiss campaign, as well as the Burn and Smile campaign to stop stigmatization of burn victims.
These campaigns prevail due to their role in storytelling, speaking upon stigmatization of marginalized groups and bridging the power gap, to produce the impact of shaping and framing audience perspective on issues to cause social change. The burn victim awareness video utilizes storytelling and truth telling as part of the three principles of public engagement to create success within a digital media sphere, as the video reached popularity, through shares online. The Turvy campaign utilized similar aspects to reach success as the video steered away from fear or information based advertising, to tell the story of a woman with AIDS that is able to be brought to strength with modern medicine. The utilization of a woman with AIDS and a man who is a burn victim in advertisements aiming to create social change, reach success through truth and storytelling tactics, that works to fill the power gap that perpetuates stigmatization.
The impacts that successful communication campaigning has on creating social change is unparalleled in importance is has in making sustained differences in communities. Successful communication done by the campaigns explained above, has the capability to make behavioural and policy changes through filling the power gaps which lead to changing the conversation about stigmatized individuals. Communication can speak on public issues and has the capability to frame audience perspectives to allow positive social change, such as perspectives on burn victims or AIDS patients. Scalway states that “communication holds the key to containing HIV transmission and coping with the effects of this pandemic” (Scalway 2003). Stigmatization and oppression are diseases with no medical cure. Communication is the only cure to aiding the corrosive stigmatization that hinders the success and happiness of lives and should be treated with this importance in the realms of popular, public media and culture.

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