Nonprofit communications professionals need to get their message across and they know they have to compete to make that happen. Of course that competetition is apparently quite fierce. By some estimates, the average consumer is innundated with about 1 million messages annually. If you do the math, that comes to about 3000 messages per day!
And these messages are seemingly everywhere. From the moment you wake up to the radio and open the day's paper, you're bombarded with messaging. Don't turn on your tv or your computer, they're definitely there...in full force. You certainly can't escape them when you step out the door to begin your morning commute, they're on billboards, buses and store fronts along the way to work. If you've seen a blimp lately, you'll know that advertising is now plastered there too. Someday ads might even orbit over our heads in space.
Now, before you get worried that it's hopeless to compete with all this, we want you to know that it can be done.
Roy H. Williams, a.k.a. the Wizard of Ads, states on his popular Monday Morning Memo that more than anything, salience times repetition will determine if your message is remembered in the future.
Sure, surprise and shock factor can sometimes garner attention as well, but sometimes you might not receive the positive reaction you expected with this approach. The bottom line is that you don't have to have a huge budget, shock value or thousands of messages to create an effective campaign. Here are three lessons learned from Care2's campaigners, who send out hundreds of thousands of emails a year, to help you improve the response to your messaging:
- Be specific: effective subject lines are specific and tell people what they are going to be reading.
- It doesn't always have to be a huge change to your messaging. Trees for the Future, for example, simply made the subject line of their direct marketing emails more specific and almost tripled their donation rates (because more people were opening their newsletters). They simply shifted the subject from a generic "January Newsletter" be more specific "January Report: 1000s of trees planted in Africa and South America."
- Make it personal: specific calls to action and personalization work wonders.
- "This woman and her daughter need your help" (with a picture of the woman and her daughter) is better than "Millions need your help"
- "Make housing affordable in DC" is better than "Help Guarantee more affordable housing"
- One bite at a time: stand-alone (single-subject) email does better than multiple appeals in one email, as measured by clicks and actions.
Lastly, though nonprofits are competing with for-profits for attention, it's important to use one of your most valuable assets: stories. Identify the compelling human interest and heroic stories that result from the work of your organization, then use them to convey the complex issues you deal with. Appeal to the creative right brain and the analytical left brain. Keep it simple and personal, and write from the point of view of an individual, not an organization.
And a note about technology... don't be afraid to use interactive online tools such as discussion forums and blogs. And capturing stories on video, such as this one, can be very powerful.