Today, I was reminded by a corporate communicator, who I engaged and received support in 2003-04, while driving a global road safety campaign. He pointed me to a video on road safety which was supported by a life insurance firm. The video anchored by a popular singer in the vernacular language had people dancing and demonstrating road safety measures. How do we know it will work or does work? Does the campaign falls within the purview of a cause related marketing effort? Does the campaign even understand the issues that prevent citizens from staying safe on the road?
Road accidents and deaths are among the highest in India, even today. According to a World Bank report, India tops with 11% of the world’s deaths despite having just 1% of the world’s vehicles. What does have to do with me or internal communications?
In 2003, I had a freak bike accident and thankfully I was saved because of the helmet I was wearing. Nevertheless, while recovering from the accident I realized the potential of using communications to reach a wider population which had little awareness and even worse, a poor attitude to riding/driving safely. I sounded out a few friends and we created a communication campaign which would make it easier for anyone around the globe to do their bit locally. Those days, the internet and social media wasn’t widely prevalent and hosting the content on an online space allowed people to download it swiftly.
The word caught on and the NGO we started, Friends for Life was invited by the World Health Organization to partner on World Health Day in 2004 which incidentally focused on road safety. Locally, we partnered with the police department, medical institutions and colleges to spread the word through face to face and social engagements.
What’s intriguing is that even after 16+ years, the challenge of road safety continues. Just that the dimensions have changed – despite improvements to the condition of roads and safety measures, the issues plaguing us today are different (increased cases of drunken driving, road rage, faster vehicles, distractions of mobile phones while driving etc). The opportunities to get the message to audiences and to be more targeted and get to them faster are now better than ever. The opportunities to also use neuroscience and nudges to get people to start thinking more about their own safety and others on the road have more potential.
For internal communicators ( I remember making road safety top of mind at my earlier employer – Accenture), the opportunities to make well-being and health (not just mental health) a priority is important to get employees to view the employer as a partner in their success. Reinforcing the importance of safety at work and beyond, giving employees a reason to propagate the message in their communities and driving deeper engagement, can go a long way in creating a safer world.