The 5 Cs of Effective Communication

April 2024

At its core, advocacy communications is about ensuring a message reaches people and moves them to take action. Unlike marketing or advertising, advocacy communications isn't selling a product; it's "selling" an idea. In contrast to communications solely for entertainment, advocacy communications has a bigger purpose. Beyond journalism's mission to inform, advocacy communications seeks to motivate societal change.

Informed by sociology, psychology, neuroscience, and political science, effective advocacy communication requires strategy, skill, and finesse. But as I recently shared with a group of graduate students studying how policy impacts poverty and inequality, as you learn the nuances of mission-driven advocacy, many fundamentals of communication still apply.

Those fundamentals include the 5 Cs of effective communication:

  • CLEAR - Don’t write/say all you know. Write/say what others need to know and in a way they can understand.
  • CONCISE - Be as brief as possible while still thorough.
  • CREDIBLE - Your reputation is everything. To be a reliable source, use reliable sources.
  • CONSISTENT - People should look to you/your organization for a reason. Be consistent in the voice you use and topics you address. Consistency impacts credibility, which means there may be times you need to say, "This is the best we know right now and our position may change as we learn more."
  • COMPELLING - An unprecedented amount of content on a growing number of platforms competes for our collective attention. Remember it's your responsibility to keep people engaged, including by using the power of storytelling.

I created Stories Change Power to help indvidiuals and organizations be effective in their advocacy communications. If you have questions about the 5 Cs, would like to suggest other topics for us to address, or could benefit from professional development, use the form below to get in touch. We'd love to hear from you.

- Piper Hendricks, Founder & CEO

The image of five colorful umbrellas hovering over a long stretch of sand with a calm sea just beyond was taken by Nick Fewings.

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