Monday, July 25, 2011

The Bubble

There's a problem with all this wonderful technology that we have. It's probably the biggest problem that your non-profit marketing faces, and yet, you likely don't know it exists.

We have so many new and exciting things in non-profit marketing. First there was the Internet, then email. Remember multimedia? That came next. More recently, there's been social media -- Facebook, Twittter and all the rest. And now, we have the beginnings of a new mobile wave that will see all of the above and more run through a device in the palm of your stakeholder's hand. Compared to ten or twenty years ago there are literally dozens if not hundreds of more ways to reach your target audiences today. So what's the problem?

Technology works both ways. What serves to open a new communications channel to your stakeholders also serves to isolate them from us. I call this the Bubble.

Just think about it. Built into each wave of technology has been the ability to screen multiple messages and discard the ones stakeholders don't want. Email is a good example. A person can get literally hundreds of emails a day but they will only read just a few. Email trash cans are jammed with unwanted or unloved messages. And we have all become quite good at triaging our email browser quickly, efficiently and without mercy. Email has been a great liberator. It has allowed us to communicate in new and powerful ways. But it also has become harder and harder to reach people with email because email also has the ability to isolate people from messages you want to send.

Email is not alone. Social media is another good example. Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter can deliver hundreds of messages a day, but we all know that most will not get read. Again, the connectedness that these technologies give us also allows us to ignore, downgrade and dump messages just as efficiently as we receive them. The new mobile reality will be more of the same. Yes, new apps and other programs will turn our phones into powerful communications platforms, but they will also allow us to ignore more and more of those messages than ever before.

We think of our stakeholders as being ready, willing and able to receive a message from us. After all, there are so many ways to reach them. But the reality is that reaching their email, Facebook, Twitter and more doesn't mean we have in fact reached them. And that is the Bubble that non-profits face.

So, at the very time we are able to send more messages than ever before fewer are being actually digested.

Where does that leave us? We need to appreciate the Bubble. More than ever, we need to realize that a multi-channel approach is critically important. But more than anything else we need to pay attention to the message. At the end of the day the only thing that can cut through the Bubble is a well-crafted message that your stakeholders really want to hear. It will require us to change. We need to stop taking an organizational-focused approach to our communications and start taking a stakeholder-focused approach. In other words, we need to stop telling stakeholders what we want and start telling them what they want. We need to stop using our voice and start using theirs.

That's the only way to break through the Bubble.

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