getting narrative right (and wrong)

News today out of Germany as a shepherded arranged her flock of sheep and goats into the shape of a hypodermic needle to try and sway those not yet vaccinated.

Sheep and goats stand together in Schneverdingen, Germany, as they form an approximately 100 meters large syringe to promote vaccinations against COVID-19, Monday, Jan. 3, 2022. (Philipp Schulze/dpa via AP)

Organizer Hanspeter Etzold said the action was aimed at people who are still hesitating to get vaccinated. “Sheep are such likeable animals — maybe they can get the message over better,” he said.

This is a great example of messaging likely being culturally specific. It will be interesting to see reactions from the German (and other EU) people, but this narrative would surely backfire in the US. “Sheeple” is a derogatory term being used by the anti-vax and other crowds to decry people following public health guidance and instead prioritize individual “freedom” above all else.

Whatever camp one sits in, this is an interesting approach to building a narrative, and one that most certainly will be twisted to achieve the opposite effect. All the more reason for doing narrative red teaming early and often.

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