I really enjoyed Marc Sirkin’s recent post on the differences between “radical attention hogs” and “platform players,” which he presents as a take of the difference between causes and organizations. He argues that as a nonprofit becomes more established, it will naturally lose its edge. I agree that this path is true for most organizations, but I’d hate to believe that is entirely inevitable or irreversible.
For example, I’m thinking of the transformation that has taken place at the Humane Society of the United States. HSUS is definitely a platform player – very well-established in the field, big staff, huge membership, etc. But in the last couple of years, since Wayne Pacelle took over, HSUS is now much more cause-driven and is just about as outspoken on several issues as PETA, which most people would classify as the “radical attention hog” in the humane/animal rights field.
I was freelance writing for HSUS around the time that this transition was taking place, and I can tell you that it was not without a fair amount of grumbling among the staff whose programs were not selected for “campaign” status. Nevertheless, I think HSUS has done a great job pulling it off. While they still provide a ton of non-confrontational information and advocacy on a wide variety of humane issues, a few areas of focus have an entirely new edge to them, especially the factory farming campaign and the fur free campaign, where they call out bad behavior by name all over the place. They also give lots of credit to companies that choose to do the right thing. If you examine these campaign mini-sites, you’ll see quite a bit of difference between them and the main HSUS site.
What are your favorite examples of edgy, cause-driven communications by well-established, mainstream organizations?