Lady Gaga on Nonprofit Marketing

Whether she knew it or not, Lady Gaga offered some great advice to non profit marketers in a recent interview when she said, “There is magic in reality.”

Here’s how this relates to you: the reality of the person doing the marketing (that’s you, if you’re reading this) is different than the reality of the person to whom you are marketing. If you want to be able to engage people who care about your cause, you’ve got to figure out what the magic of their reality is. As forward and uncomfortable as it may sound, you’ve got to get in their heads.  

If you are the one in charge of marketing your non profit, you–by definition–lack perspective. (No offense. It’s just how it is.) You’re thinking about, reflecting upon and proactively doing something about getting people’s attention. The person on the receiving end is wondering if they should have a second butterhorn for breakfast. They’re in a different head space. Your job is to get into their  head space.

Here are two resources for helping you get into the heads–and hearts–of people who want to help you advance your mission:

Have you made personas for your organization? Any other ideas for how to get in the heads of people who care about your cause?

Relativity, Narrowness and Names

My son, who is three and a bit, is obsessed with organizing things by size. Cups, toys, trains. Is the red cup bigger than the yellow one? Is the brown bear smaller than the white one? It’s all about relativity. Why is this?

At a workshop I gave in Bellingham on St. Patrick’s Day, I shared that there were 36.5 million people of Irish heritage in the U.S. That’s nine times the population of Ireland. Which number do you think they remembered at the end of the workshop: 36.5 or 9? That’s right, 9. And not just because it’s smaller. But because it was relative.  We train our brains from a very early age to compare and contrast. Absolutes are tough to wrap our brains around. My son will not grow out of his penchant for comparing; he’ll grow into it.

We spent a fair amount of time at Tune-Up Tuesday thinking about relativity as it relates (ha, ha) to messaging.

Lesson: use relativity to your advantage so people remember your organization and mission.

Two other key take-aways from this month’s meet-up:

  1. Personas are powerful. They are also hard to do. They force us to be specific and think deeply about one type of person who cares about our cause rather than the universe of people who might. Lesson: Deep and narrow beats shallow and wide when it comes to messaging.
  2. Names matter. A lot. If your organization goes by an acronym, be consistent about using that acronym. If you have an acronym AND you use the full name, you’re managing two brands. That’s expensive and erodes brand equity. Lesson: When it comes to names and acronyms, use one or the other but not both.

For those that were there, anything to add? For those that coudn’t join, what were you hoping to cover?

Participant-Powered Engagement

Mea culpa. For years, I’ve referred to ‘target audiences’ and ‘target markets’. I did this because knowing who you are trying to engage in your mission is important.

But audiences and markets sound like nebulous blobs. Faceless, feature-less, and certainly not able to help you advance your mission.

What we’re really after is passionate participants. Individuals, organizations, and institutions who want to help power your mission.

Inspired by Nancy Schwartz and Kivi Leroux Miller, I would like to suggest that we start using the term ‘target participant’.

How then do nonprofits go about identifying, connecting and engaging target participants?

  1. Identify your goal. What do you want people to do? What will be different for your organization and the community if people participate in making the change happen? Make it S.M.A.R.T.
  2. Identify target participants who would want to help you achieve your goal. Who are they? Why would they care?
  3. Write a hypothetical persona for each target participant. [Don’t worry about this step yet. We’ll tackle it later in the month.]
  4. Craft messages that will resonate with those personas.
  5. Test the messages with real-life people who match your persona.
  6. Push the messages out via channels that your target participants use. (You’ll figure this out when you do the personas. Again, don’t stress about it yet.)

I’m not going to lie: participant-powered engagement takes some work. But you’re working hard anyway, so why not make that hard work pay off for you, your mission, and your community?!