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Soils / / Giving soils a voice

Giving soils a voice

We don’t directly drink or breathe soil, so it’s often forgotten as we trample over it.

Raising awareness and inspiring action for promoting and protecting our soils has been a central focus throughout this International Year of Soils (IYS). We need healthy soils for a healthy life because the bottom line is that no soil = no food.

We are nearing the end of this year of soils and are taking stock of progress made. How can we continue the momentum into 2016 to keep the soils profile high?  Yet this has just been the start – and a turning point for soils on global, national and local agendas.

Around the globe, diverse groups of people are gathering around the table, not over a meal per se, but to discuss where all meals start: the soil. However, we often end up preaching to the converted, to those who already believe in the importance of understanding, protecting, investing in one of our most precious resources. Awareness-raising and outreach beyond the inner circle of ‘soil converts’ is what IYS has done,  to get the public excited and engaged in the soil beneath their feet.

The evidence is clear in the level of engagement and outreach there has been around the topic. Partners of the European network for soil awareness (ENSA) have been using some very creative approaches: leveraging art to speak for soil (Decrustate 2015), soil playing cards, political initiatives (People4Soil), calendars, citizen soil science (Tea bag index), school activities, hands-on exhibits and much more. They’ve taken soils to the people.

And once you are there, what do you tell them? How do you go beyond raising awareness to give them a reason to care and take action?  It hasn’t been easy. But we developed tools and guidelines to follow to figure out how to best craft, target and deliver the pitch.

There are many resources out there, but sometimes it’s just easier to jump in and try, get feedback and adapt your pitch. That is just the process I led the ENSA network through last week to practice “giving soils a voice.”

We started by distilling our key messages. If you just had 30 seconds to tell someone why they should care about soils, what would you say? Mark Twain once said: “I would have written that shorter, but I didn’t have the time.” Find the time so your message can get through the information chaos of our world and stick in the mind of your listener.

Here’s a fun exercise to try and perfect your key message:
Imagine you had a quick minute to tell someone why she should care about soil
1. Write down what you want to say
2. Cross out words until you have the shortest sentence you possibly can
3. Deliver your simplified message to someone (person A)
4. Have that person (A) tell a person (B) who wasn’t in the room what you just said
5. If a person (A) who hears your simple message can repeat it accurately to the next person (B), you’ve got it!
6. If they don’t say exactly the words you want repeated go back to simplify it some more and try steps 3-4 again.

Now you have your key message, but how do you package that message in an engaging way? With a pitch. If you think about it, we’re all pitching and receiving pitches every day in one way or another. From making the case for what we want to eat for dinner to my pitch to get you to read this far in this blog.

Here are 5 simple pitching principles:
1. Know your audience – Who are you trying to convince? What interests them?
2. Be clear and crisp with your facts – use figures wisely and no jargon
3. Give it a human angle – Put a story behind your facts to create an emotional connection
4. Know your ask – What do you want someone to DO? Can your audience take this action?
5. Focus on soft skills – It’s not always what you say, but how you say it. Be confident and humble. Engage your audience.

Most people these days are so overwhelmed with information that your message has to be simple and delivered in a catchy way to make it through the information clutter. It should go beyond informing to empowering someone to take action for the biggest impact. This can be the most challenging part of a pitch to craft, but the most powerful. If you communicate exactly what you are asking your listener to do, and it’s something they really can do, they are much more likely to take the first step. Wouldn’t you?

What is my pitch to you? Make the most of your meetings, coffee breaks, field visits and chance encounters by having your key messages and pitches practiced and ready to pull out of your pocket to inspire and empower.

 

By Juliet Braslow, CIAT Soils Research Area Coordinator

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The UN has declared 2015 as the International Year of Soils to raise awareness of the urgent need to protect the resource that feeds and waters us. Find out how CIATs global soils research team of soil scientists, ecologists and anthropologists are working with partners to protect and restore this vital resource.

IYS-WSD-EN

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