I’m honored to be quoted in today’s New York Times article on provocative nonprofit marketing campaigns. David Wallis makes excellent points and shares well-rounded thoughts from the sector. Here’s a continuation of the story – 6 tips for deciding if thinking outside the marketing box is right for you…
1. Make sure it’s brand appropriate
If your brand is already a bit edgy, creative and fun – it’s a no brainer. But if you’re a big institution (hospital, school) with lots of constituents and an established brand, you might think twice. If your organization doesn’t want to ‘do’ it – see if you can give the idea to your organization’s biggest advocates. If ‘they’ lead the effort, the organization is protected a bit and you’re less likely to get fired.
2. Research could prevent a backfire
If you’re planning something, you likely hope it goes viral and gets some attention, which would imply you need to keep the concept quiet. Don’t. Grab a few friends, colleagues or strangers and run it by them. Let them react openly and honestly. Something that is brilliant, creative, insightful or genius to you…might be confusing, weird, divisive or a shameless ploy for attention to them.
3. Create the spontaneous
While some things end up naturally going viral, many things that go viral only did so after months of planning and executing strategy. Recruiting 15 bloggers that write on a topic related to your issue – to all write a post on the same day about your campaign or video – will help dramatically. Making something ‘look organic’ is hard but exciting to think through – spend some time mapping out the best things that ‘could’ happen (i.e. what if celebrity A mentioned it or if our video was featured here or here….) then reach out and try to engage those influencers before you go live.
4. Know that ‘true value’ usually trumps ‘shock value’
There’s a ‘saying’ in the online world that ‘content is king’. What they mean is that quality content (articles, posts, etc.) that truly interests people is always a better strategy than spending time or money on flashy marketing, the next best SEO strategy, sponsoring tweets, etc. Think ‘lipstick on a pig’. Same is true in giving and nonprofits. A flashy marketing effort, in the long run, will not help if your organization isn’t producing results and you can’t communicate your value proposition clearly to the right audience. That said, unfortunately there are nonprofits, brands, products and bloggers (ahem) that are actually pretty bad – but are fantastic at marketing themselves – so they raise tons of money, sell books, get deals, etc and are ‘seen’ as having incredible value. Perception is reality…right???
5. Surprise everyone but your boss.
I would hope this is self-explanatory.
6. If it doesn’t catch on…STOP.
You should know pretty quickly if you’ve got something good. Your efforts will start paying off and people will naturally start sharing it because it has that ‘X’ factor. If you’ve made a valiant effort and it’s not going anywhere…stop. Pull the plug, thank those that helped, learn what you can and move on. Relentlessly pushing something that clearly isn’t catching on looks bad, feels bad and eventually does more harm than good.