Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Putting the message across

I received an email early this morning from a woman saying she had spoken with a feeder in her area. The woman had told her that there was no point seeing the TC as she has seen them 5 years ago and they weren't helpful. I wrote back to say that I was at the meeting with the feeder and I can see why it wasn't successful. The problem was that the woman got very emotional and started crying. She started clutching at the officer's sleeve and I had to guide her out of the room. She didn't speak about why sterilisation was important - she spoke about not being cruel and killing the animals. That may be how she feels but it's NOT convincing to the town council and needless to say the officer wasn't very impressed.

As I've said before, if I'm trying to sell you shampoo, what you, the consumer wants to hear is why the shampoo will work for you. Focus your message on that. As a consumer, I don't care if the shampoo is good for YOUR hair - I want to know what it will do for mine. In the same way, the town council wants to know how TNRM will benefit them.

I got another email from someone just a while ago. She wants to write to her town council and ask them to meet and she sent a draft copy of her email. Now I am very glad to see that she is writing in, and this is not meant to be a criticism of what she did - better that you stand up and speak for the cats, then not do anything at all. It does however serve as a reminder to me of why some TCs don't work with the caregivers - and that's because the message isn't put across in a way that convinces them. The effort then is wasted, and the caregiver goes home disheartened.

First of all, the word 'cat lover' is loaded with connotations - and none of them good. So what if you love cats? Sure, we like cats because otherwise the majority of caregivers wouldn't be doing TNRM - BUT TNRM is the best option, whether or not you like cats. You can be perfectly indifferent to cats, or even be afraid of them, and still think TNRM is the best solution because killing has been shown not to work in controlling the population and managing the area.

Also using a term like 'cat lover' just polarises the camps - then there is an "us" (the 'cat lovers') versus the 'then' (the 'cat haters'). It's NOT about that - it's about a community working together to solve a problem that faces us all.

Secondly, the word sterilisation (or even describing what it was) was never used in the letter nor was the idea or concept of management introduced. Don't use an argument like "don't kill the innocent cats" (which was used in the letter) because let's face it, that's probably your weakest argument. Try using the term "don't kill innocent cockroaches/rats" in place of that and you can see why it fails (a feeder told me the other day that cockroaches are pests - guess that, some TC officers think CATS are pests). It's not about the innocence of the animals, it's about the effectiveness of the method used. Arguments based on ethics can be raised certainly (and should be raised) but it should never be the main thrust of your argument.

Thirdly, the writer said that cats should not be killed even if they are 'not accepted by the community'. If I am the officer, and even you the caregiver think that the cats are not accepted - then I would be MORE likely to trap and kill. In the first place, I don't think the cats are not accepted - so be careful how you put an argument like that across.

Next, the writer asks for 'approval' to look after the cats. There is no need for approval because this isn't a right given to you by the TC. Anyone can look after the cats - it's not illegal. You don't have to ask the town council permission to use the staircase outside your flat - you don't need to ask for their 'approval' to look after the cats. What you DO want to do is work with them together.

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Blogger calsifer said...

Perhaps a new factsheet with pointers on what to mention in letters to the tc is needed? =)

22/11/07 9:00 AM  
Blogger Dawn said...

New factsheet :) Actually that is a good idea and at the next workshop we might try new exercises on writing/talking to TC.

22/11/07 9:27 AM  
Anonymous furry said...

Hi Dawn

I have been to one of the TNRM workshop. I think it is a very good idea to conduct the one as suggested by you on writing/talking to TC and also to include discussion panels with caregivers on how to handle complaints and also difficult people while feeding (this will be very good for people who just start to be a caregiver).

22/11/07 4:19 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

Thanks - will work on that and hopefully will have some audience participation :)

22/11/07 6:37 PM  

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