So What and Who Cares?

I spoke at the AFP Triangle Philanthropy Forecast 2012 yesterday in Raleigh, NC on a panel about communications and media trends for 2012 with Gail Perry, Lu Esposito, and Todd Cohen.

My first point was that integrated marketing is essential in 2012. You have to decide your messages and then coordinate how you will use all of your communications channels to share that message. Think about how you will use your website, email, Facebook, direct mail, media, events (the Big Six) and anything else you rely on to share that message. Don’t just write a direct mail fundraising letter and then figure out whether you can tack on email or Facebook posts after the fact. Try to think about how you can use multiple channels right from the start.

That led to a discussion about messaging — or what to communicate about in 2012.

We can get into all of the various elements of a good communications strategy, but if you are in a hurry, it really boils down to two questions. When someone gets communication from you, you want them to be able to answer:  So What? and Who Cares?

So What?

Why does what you have to say — your message — matter right now? What’s timely about it? What’s interesting or different? How is it relevant given everything else that’s happening now? Can you put it in a context that makes it easier to understand? What about it will make someone laugh or cry or otherwise connect on an emotional level? What are they supposed to do about it (e.g. is there a call to action?)

Who Cares?

Why is this message particularly relevant to the person on the receiving end? Even if it is interesting, timely, and emotionally powerful, is the message being delivered to the right people — the ones who would stand up and say “Yes, I care!”

Memorable and motivating messaging has to answer both the So What? and the Who Cares? questions, or it won’t work.

Let’s look at two examples . . .

Take the story on 60 Minutes Sunday night about the endangered species being raised on Texas ranch land: Can Hunting Endangered Animals Save the Species? What’s interesting or different is the paradox that these ranches are based on. They will raise these various endangered species and they will flourish, while they are perishing and close to extinction in their native African grasslands. But to pay for that, the ranchers let big game hunters pick off as much as 10 percent of the herd. It’s an interesting conflict, so we’ve answered the So What? question.

Now, let’s look at Who Cares? You have two different groups of people who are very interested in keeping these species alive. The wildlife preservationists want to protect the species without hunting them. The hunters want to protect the species so they can hunt them. You also have a third group of conservationists, who see this arrangement as a practical reality, even if less than ideal.

We have an interesting story. But if it’s your job to fundraise to help these animals, you really need to know which of these three groups you are talking to! That’s why understanding your supporters — the who cares — and why they care is so essential.  Your perfect fundraising letter to the hunters is going to be quite different from the perfect letter to the animal rights advocate.

Here’s another (sillier) example. I am slightly obsessed with the Republican primary in Florida (Thank God it’s Election Day down there, so I can get on with my life). For the last two weeks, I have been glued to the news reports, waiting to see what Newt and the rest of them have been saying about each other. I find all this stuff about self-deportation and moon colonies fascinating. They’ve answered the So What question for me.  But despite all the attention I’m giving it, I would never give any of those candidates a dime (I’m a progressive Democrat.) So I’m a terrible answer to the Who Cares question for Republican fundraisers.

Messaging only works when you get both questions answered!

 

 

 

 

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  • Dmpattcae

    Great post, Kivi.  You’d think this would be just plain common sense.  But it isn’t because many organizations tell what’s important to them, not what’s important to the recipient of their message.

    They value their cause and just think everybody else should, too.  Who cares?

  • Celeste Arrigo

    The discussions yesterday were great. I’m glad I was able to be a part of it. Thanks for sharing!

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