A Case for “Preaching to the Choir”
“Preaching to the choir” is often dismissed as being an ineffective way to make change in the world. Instead, energy might be better spent persuading new individuals to care about an issue. However, this viewpoint is overlooking the fact that there can be real value in reaching out to those who are already aware of an issue.The military-civilian divide is a well known issue that influences many of the aspects affecting the lives of both veterans and civilians, from mental health to employment and community service. Wisconsin Public Television partnered with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and Kindling Group to address this cultural gap with Veterans Coming Home, a digital-first campaign. This campaign directly connects with audiences by using short form video and social media to create an online community around the divide.
In collaboration with its partners, Veterans Coming Home also hosted a series of live events. These events were largely screenings with content that focused on veterans, but also included activities ranging from roundtable discussions to cookouts.To assess the impact of these events, Veterans Coming Home and Harmony Institute co-designed a pre/post-survey that was distributed to attendees by email. Fifty-seven people filled out both a pre and a post-survey and were included in our analysis. This group included:
- 24 females and 33 males
- 35 civilians and 22 veterans
- 1 person age 18-24; 9 people age 25-34; 10 people age 35-44; 17 people age 45-54; 14 people age 55-64; 6 people age 65-74
Our survey examined their beliefs and behavior before and after the events, looking for changes in attitude and the desire to take follow up action.BeliefsThe first step to addressing a problem is recognizing that a problem exists. Prior to the events, 42 people surveyed could see evidence of a military-civilian divide in society, while 13 people were unable to see the divide and two were unsure.After these events, five people who were previously unable to see evidence of a military-civilian divide changed their minds, while eight were still unconvinced. In addition, two people who had previously been able to see evidence of a military-civilian divide decided that they could not. Both people who were unsure remained unsure. Veterans Coming Home also polled event attendees to find out how urgent they believed the issue of the military-civilian divide is. Overall, three people who had not thought the military-civilian divide requires a solution changed their responses to say that it does. However, six people still felt that it does not require a solution. Three people who had previously thought it requires a solution decided that it does not, while 40 remained unchanged. One person who had thought that the issue didn’t exist changed their mind, but still did not believe that the issue requires a solution. One person maintained that the issue does not exist.ActionsEven though many of these people were already a part of what is typically considered “the choir” and didn’t change their beliefs, the events had a significant effect. They reinvigorated and urged people who had previously been passive about the issue to take some form of action. In our pre-survey, we asked people how often they discussed the military-civilian divide with others, ranging from never to every day. When we followed up with them, we asked whether they had already discussed the issue with someone or intended to in the future. Of the nine people that estimated they had discussed the military-civilian divide with someone weekly, six had already had a conversation about it and three intended to in the future. We found the same numbers for the ten people who had previously discussed the issue monthly. Of the seventeen people who only had discussions about it a few times a year, nine had already talked to someone about it and four intended to in the future. Of the eighteen who had rarely or never had a conversation about the military-civilian divide, six had already done so and eight intended to in the future. This was a total of thirty conversations that had already occurred and an additional eighteen people with future plans to talk about the issue. Only nine people had no intention of doing so. In addition, thirteen event attendees had already attended a similar event and thirty-five intended to do so in the future. Energizing the choirAction emerges out of understanding what needs to be done and having the motivation to pursue it. Live events often attract people who already have some interest in an issue, but can be powerful forces for clarifying what needs to be done about an issue and invigorating attendees with the motivation to take action. Social impact campaigns can harness this energy by providing attendees with immediate ways to stay engaged with the issue. For more information, follow Veterans Coming Home and Kindling Group on Facebook and Twitter at @kindlinggroup and @vetscominghome.See the second part of this series, which explores the Facebook engagement of the Veterans Coming Home campaign.