Introducing the story of two young communication students from Viet Nam, Vi Nguyen Nhat Hoang and Quang Vinh Pham, who strive to find solutions for the impending issue of plastic waste caused by the rise of online shopping. They were one of the selected participants of the 2nd ASEAN Youth Social Journalism (AYSJ) 2021 and created an impactful online campaign - Flatten the Plastic Curve - that helped raise awareness on how to reduce plastic waste from online shopping.
How would you describe your experience in AYSJ 2021?
“Thought-provoking”. That is how we summarized our AYSJ 2021 experience in one word. For both of us, two young communications students from Viet Nam, ASEAN has been a dynamic region and an inspiring community to explore and challenge ourselves. Participating in AYSJ 2021 as the Vietnamese finalists, we run Flatten the Plastic Curve, a social media campaign to encourage the Vietnamese youth to reduce plastic consumption, as online shopping increased substantially in the COVID-19 lockdown. These practices seem to have remained, even with the easing of social distancing policies.
What are the most important lessons you learned from the workshop?
4-day workshop = 1 highlight in the semester break
The four-day workshop was a highlight in our semester break. Although it was online, the workshop was interactive and action-focused as if we were sitting in the same room! We love how Horea, our trainer, delivered the message in concise and bite-sized takeaways. In those four days, we had a chance to better understand the ASEAN communities, cultivate our knowledge about social journalism and connect with other like-minded young activists in the region. Two key lessons we could not forget after leaving the training workshop are the importance of credibility and concrete content.
Firstly, for journalists, credibility is key. Therefore, whenever we find a piece of information from the news, make sure we could go to the ultimate source of the information. Newspaper articles are simply reporters’ points of view, in which information has been filtered to support their communication message. With this in mind, we learned to source the data in the right way without being affected by anyone’s point of view, hence, delivered a more accurate and credible social campaign after the workshop.
Secondly, be concrete. As journalists, we need to speak in a language that is straightforward and easy-to-chew for our audience. Giving them too much information, in other words, confusion, would not benefit our campaign but cause a counterproductive effect. This became fundamental for our content strategy of the campaign: using a friendly tone of voice to call for online shoppers to reduce as much as they can during the pandemic.
What are your tips for running a successful campaign?
Resilient, resilient, and resilient.
In Viet Nam, if something is important, we will say it three times. Flashing back to our first days of the campaign, we could say that our resilience made up for 50% of the campaign’s success. Running a new Facebook page was not all roses. It was not simple as ABC, believing that when you posted content consistently, page followers and comments would increase significantly. In the first two weeks, the average reach of our posts was just around 500, mostly from friends and family members. To be frank, we were pressured and disappointed with the results, but we knew that we would not quit. We revised our strategy, reached out to environmental experts, and published content in minimalist and green living communities. Earned media took time, but it was worth the wait in the end. After one month of the campaign, we could reach up to 40,000 young people with our print ads, receive organic shares and have our campaign mentioned in 4 Vietnamese macro influencers’ Facebook pages. Especially, there was a group of students who asked if they could volunteer for us as part of their university project. At that moment, we realized that we started to have an impact on the community. Without resilience, none of these results will ever happen.
How did people react to and support your campaign?
We would like to express gratitude to our university lecturers, family members, friends, Vietnamese youth community page and key opinion leaders. They’re the other 50% leading to Flatten the Plastic Curve’s success. Without their mental support and guidance, we could not smash the goals and sustain the campaign until now. And if you are reading until this very last part of our reflection, thank you so much and please continue to support us in creating a more sustainable and greener “new normal” life.
Edited by: Tiffany Celine Handoko, Communications Intern