Next week, our team heads to San Francisco for the 2011 BSR Conference. (Weber Shandwick is the global agency partner for BSR.) We’re looking forward to seeing familiar faces and to contributing to the conversation on how companies are leading the way to a more sustainable future. We’re also excited about our work with BSR to Storify the event, which will offer conference attendees, and interested parties around the globe, access to real-time content from the conference. Whether it’s takeaways from plenary sessions with Al Gore, Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn, and Anheuser-Busch InBev CEO Carlos Brito, or insights from discussion of topics such as the impact of technology on sustainability, effective engagement with consumers on sustainability, and more, the #BSR11 Storify channel will have a curated stream of conference highlights.
There is a lot of a conversation swirling around the Internet about the value of philanthropy and what motivates people to donate and how they like to make their donations. One of the most interesting is why Steve Jobs wasn’t a big philanthropic player, at least publicly, despite being worth billions. Chronicle of Philanthropy reporter Caroline Preston wrote that Jobs “found many things about professional philanthropy—the jargon, showiness and all the rich people who thought they could shake it up—distasteful.”
The always provocative blogger Seth Godin raised questioned about fundraising galas. Aside from a completely understandable criticism of the bland food that is served, Godin calls galas “corrupting” because people are driven by “social and selfish motivations to attend, and thus the philanthropic element of giving – just to give – is removed.”
In addition, policy leaders are debating decisions that would have tremendous impacts on giving. President Obama has been calling for a limit to the amount that wealthy taxpayers (those making more than $200,000 a year) could write off in their itemized tax deductions – down from the current maximum of 35 percent. Studies range on the bottom line impact this would have on charitable giving, but charities would definitely take a fundraising hit.
Running through all of this is the question about what motivates people to give money to a cause. Having been in both the nonprofit and foundation sectors, I know it’s foolish to expect people to never have social or selfish reasons for giving. But is there an ideal mix of the social, the selfish and the self-less?
To me, it comes down to knowing your audience and finding the right ask, in the right venue (black tie or not), at the right time and in the right media.
The most effective charities are adept at knowing their audiences and building in multiple ways for them to get engaged. It’s not a coincidence that end-of-the-year appeals include information about tax deductions as a way of reminding people of this benefit. Some charities know that their major donors expect and like getting together for an annual gala. Some people (maybe even Steve Jobs) only give anonymously and don’t seek credit or an ongoing relationship. If you know your audience, you can adjust your strategies.
In today’s rapidly evolving digital landscape there are not many constants. New technologies are born and die in the marketplace on a daily basis. Audiences that were once known for consuming only traditional media – senior citizens – are now the fastest-growing demographic online. And those who used to delight in watching Oprah on TV would now rather play Angry Birds on their iPhones.
This ever-changing playing field underscores the importance of adopting a “discovery” mentality to keep pace with the medium. As an agency or brand, understanding who is participating on which platform at what time and why is the first step to building a successful communications campaign.
At New York’s Pivot Conference: The Rise of the Social Consumer last week, Adam Duritz of Counting Crows highlighted the importance of a “discovery” approach to reaching and engaging people in social media. As the voice behind @countingcrows with nearly 1.3 million followers, he outlined his approach to promoting his music by tapping into the growing the relationship between artists and fans, instead of relying only on record companies and other industry producers.
Referring to a crumpled paper of notes throughout his presentation, suggesting he too had done a deep dive to fully “discover” the space, Duritz pointed out that tweets, posts, check-ins and other social media activities are like human behavioral data, and it is up to activists in the social space to use this knowledge as insight to inform how we interact.
Britta Schell, Director of Digital Strategic Insights at MTV, said she focuses on implementing research methodologies to ensure MTV stays relevant and fully immersed with Millennial culture and its preferred technologies. After conducting research into Millennial engagement last year, MTV composed rules of digital etiquette, which the company is calling “digiquette.” MTV asserts these rules guide Millennial online behavior and thus, should be respected when brands and individuals alike are interacting digitally with this generation.
Co-founder and CEO of appssavvy Chris Cunningham echoed the sentiment that increasingly there is a fundamental shift in how brands need to think about driving awareness. Understanding what different audience groups are doing in the space and how they are using the environment is critical to initiating effective engagement.
“Think about the experience of your customer,” said Cunnigham. “Where is there friction and how can you improve that?”
Having a dedication to the continued “discovery” of audiences, behaviors, platforms and tactics is what will allow your brand to be relevant. Ultimately it will be your audience who decides whether your brand also has resonance.
After living in D.C. for more than a decade, I’ve become a connoisseur of organized protests. It's rare that a week goes by where I don't encounter a protest or two just going about my everyday business.
And when I do, it's tough not to evaluate and critique them and wonder about their effectiveness.Whether I agree with each protest or not, the cynic in me can't help but think they could be more successful if they did a better job staying on message.
Too often, protests feature a lot of noise with only a loosely consistent underlying message. This disjointed nature risks distracting or diluting from the primary message. And it ensures that many potential supporters will stumble upon something they disagree with instead of focusing on the primary message they support.
This is a widespread critique of most protests and movements across the political spectrum from the Tea Party to Occupy Wall Street: there is no common platform.
With that in mind, I’m interested by OccupyDesign, a component of the Occupy Wall Street movement that applies the unique skills, expertise and passions of designers and other visual communicators.
In political and activist discourse, the messages that get noticed and resonate are succinct, unified, visual and sometimes humorous. OccupyDesign plays into that by aspiring to use design to create a visual vocabulary of the movement – to give OWS the most effective messages in the most effective formats.
It is a nascent aspect of the movement but has the potential to dramatically upgrade the traditional protest sign and directly address the critics who wonder aloud what it is they stand for.
Executive Vice President and Senior Global Corporate Strategist
Senior Vice President
Chief Communications Strategist
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