Having trouble reading this? It's not a computer glitch – the headline is designed to make you consider what it would be like if you couldn't read. Would it affect the way you communicate with friends and family? Would you be able to do your job? How would you share your clients' messages in an illiterate world?
For more than 700 million people around the world, illiteracy is a reality, and in most cases it is a significant obstacle to creating a positive future for themselves and their families. According to UNESCO, literacy has the power to lift families out of poverty in the span of one generation and impact entire communities, particularly in the developing world.
Considering the impact the written word has on our profession, I think it is safe for me to assume that this issue is important to all of us. Several years ago, a Ketchum employee survey found that literacy was the leading choice for the causes employees were passionate about, where individuals volunteered their personal time, and the cause they wanted the agency to focus its pro bono support. As a result, Ketchum established its partnership with Room to Read in 2008, which seeks to transform the lives of children through literacy.
Across our industry, we're seeing more and more support for global literacy causes, such as Twitter's announcement last year to name Room to Read its first corporate social innovation partner. As part of Twitter's Hope140 effort, it recently launched a fundraiser and an awareness campaign on International Literacy Day in September encouraging people to retweet a scrambled message to demonstrate the literacy divide. To Twitter's founders, the message of the partnership was simple – “If you can't read, you can't tweet.”
The world would be a very different place if we weren't able to read or write. As communicators we need to use our skills to help bridge the divide, not only so that our profession continues to expand to all corners of the world, but more importantly, that all humankind continues to evolve and truly flourish.
Julie Ferriot is a VP and management supervisor at Ketchum West.