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Communication that works for Covid-19

Many of us have the luxury of surfing the internet on our phones to check the latest stats on the Covid-19 crisis.  We have access to television to view the President’s updates and we understand the science behind staying home to flatten the curve.  But for many South Africans this is not their reality.  The phrase “flatten the curve” does not mean much to someone with a basic education or limited understanding of mathematics.  And what we don’t understand, we cannot act upon.

Creating a campaign about Covid-19 to change the way people behave

It was this realisation that spurred Jules Newton, founder and director of Avocado Vision, to action.  “When we realised that the pandemic was looming,” Jules tells me, “we recognised that we could use our large network of trainers in many communities in the country.  That’s an incredible platform from which to disseminate relevant information to people who might not understand what to do and why during this time.  And that understanding can save lives.”

When the lockdown happened in March 2020, Jules’ team changed direction to using mobile communication to get the message out about the reason for staying at home.  “Our trainers have access to almost a quarter of a million people through WhatsApp.  We use pictures to train because of the great impact it has and together with Lita Currie at 3 Stickmen, a company which specialises in using pictures to train, we created a campaign about Covid-19 to change the way people behave.”

Assimilating the messages in the communities

The campaign started with distributing memes to combat the myths about the disease – that it’s only white people who get sick, or you cannot get sick if you haven’t travelled to China, or that blow-drying your face will prevent it and gargling with bleach will kill the virus.  “The memes were short and impactful and were incredibly well received by our trainers.  As community leaders in their own right, they disseminated the messages widely in many languages.  Their feedback suggested that the messages are being assimilated in the communities, and that people are changing their behaviour.”

In response to my question about where to from here, Jules responds:  “We all share responsibility for getting the message out there.  Together with our sponsor Illovo Sugar Africa we are still creating new messages and communicating them.  They are created with love and we encourage everyone to share them widely.”

Since then, many organisations and companies have picked up the baton, and the memes made it even as far as Malawi, by being translated into Chichewa.  “You never know when the right message lands with the right person and saves someone’s life.”

If you or your organisation would like to use the memes, they are available for free on the 3 Stickmen website.

Listen to the interview

About Jules Newton

In 1996 Jules was a single mom who knew there was a better way to contribute to the growth of the new South Africa in which she had so much faith. Breaking away from the safety of a corporate position, she started as an individual training consultant turning over a tiny number in her first year. In a short, but eventful, 18 years (2014) Avocado Vision had leap-frogged to an exciting and innovative development company, with a client list that included the giants of retail, finance and  government, among others. Jules had big expansion plans for the organisation and began looking for a suitable company to partner with to bring these plans to fruition. In 2015 Avocado Vision was bought out by the Swedish Based BTS Group, voted one of the Top 20 Sales Training Companies in the world (by and Jules stayed on in her role as MD.   Jules has subsequently taken on the role as Programme Director of Avocado Vision’s Green Business Value Chain, something which she’s passionate about.  Henry Sebata is the new MD, and Avocado Vision is now a 51% black-owned company with an impressive and talented team of shareholders.

Twitter handle: @Avojules

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