My morning commute means switching to auto-pilot. But recently I was stopped in my tracks by "Thought for the day" from Buddhist writer and teacher Vishvapani. He likened words to feathers we cast in the wind, without being able to either recall them or control the effect they have in the world.
Now that we interact with more and more people we know less and less, where our words are retweeted and amplified, communication becomes an ethical challenge.
The beauty of this image grabbed my attention, as did its resonance in a week in which how and what we communicate dominated news. With Boris Johnson’s burqa beliefs, hate speech and rows about antisemitism, both social and mainstream media were awash with rights and wrongs, conspiracies and polarising of positions. In an era of trolling, no-platforming and political correctness, words have the power to shape views and define social interactions. Arguably, they always have.
In charity comms, the ethics of marketing and brand building have been pitched against the duty of care to those we seek to help. Many charities make truthfulness, empathy and purpose central to their communications. Small charities such as Aylesbury-based Youth Concern empower vulnerable young adults to tell the difficult truths of their experiences in their own words. In doing so, they grow in confidence and become the best champions for the cause.
The ethics of all charity communications should be audience-focused and courageous enough to speak truth to power – to unify, not divide, and engage positively. Catch a feather or two.
Adeela Warley is chief executive of CharityComms