Want to increase the chances that your organization’s initiative will inspire action on behalf of your mission? Don’t forget this simple, guiding equation.
As nonprofit cultural organizations, we are constantly asking audiences to act in the interests of our missions. We ask them to do all sorts of things such as pay us a visit, make donations, become members, volunteer, or even take a political stance. Today’s Know Your Own Bone Fast Facts video includes a simple – yet all too often forgotten – tip that significantly increases the chances of success for your organization’s initiatives.
Think about the most successful programs and initiatives that your organization and others have carried out. Chances are, no matter what the goal, the initiatives followed this simple equation:
An organization’s goals + market preferences = action.
It sounds so simple, right? But too many organizations act as if it is not an equation at all. Some organizations act as if it is possible to effectively inspire action simply by communicating an organization’s goals. What do we think we are? Mind controllers? (Although hey, ethics and morality aside, a bunch of mission-driven folks with the power to get people to make the world a better place simply by saying so might not be so bad.)
Here are some reminders when considering a new initiative and its likely success:
1) Old habits and expectations die hard
Organizations often forget that there’s more to inspiring action beyond simply communicating goals because we are used to simply communicating our own goals! Think about it: In the past, organizations (and the world in general) relied on one-way communication channels such as print media and radio in order to transmit their messages. Traditional media channels allow organizations to talk at audiences, but they do not allow organizations to talk with audiences. Basically, they are big mouths – with no ears or actual way of communicating back via the messaging medium at all!
Today’s digital communication channels are more dynamic and they require a shift in leadership mindsets in order to effectively be deployed. These channels now allow organizations to talk with their audiences. Like traditional media, they can have mouths that allow them to “speak” messages outward, but they also have ears to let audiences speak back to organizations on the same channel. Depending on the initiative, communication channels today can even be considered to have arms in that they allow organizations to actively integrate audience engagement into the initiative in real time!
2) Digital connectivity increases the need to be relevant
Because we can talk with audiences, we may need to be even more relevant in our messaging with regard to considering market preferences. We have no excuse for not knowing our audiences and their preferences today. After all, we are constantly connected to them!
In fact, these dynamic communication channels necessitate that we do consider market preferences. There is no more excuse for simply “telling” audience members that something is important without considering that the interaction may be more like a conversation than ever before.
On this website, I often write: An organization can declare importance, but the market determines relevance. In other words, sometimes it doesn’t matter how loudly an organization uses its mouth to shout that something is important. If people don’t care about it and if it doesn’t match what they want, then that message is irrelevant.
3) Integrating market preferences is a no-brainer
Generally speaking, being aware of your audiences and their wants, needs, and interests – as well as how they prefer to communicate and create connections – is a no-brainer.
Trend data can help your organization spot emerging market preferences – but your organization may spot some of these same trends on its own simply by listening to your audiences. And when these preferences are detected, it’s important (and perfectly sensible) to utilize them in order to inspire connection and engagement. Current market preferences include things like personalization, participation, transparency, and social responsibility. If your organization is thinking about carrying out a new initiative, it will help to consider these items within your organization’s engagement strategy.
Initiatives that are contemplative of what the market wants or needs are more likely to inspire action. It may not sound like rocket science, but it is a reminder that the world is changing, and that our operations and concepts of “business as usual” must continue to evolve as well.
In many ways, we need our audiences – and the behaviors that we aim to inspire within them – more than they need us. We live in a new world of communication and connectivity – and organizations that consider themselves conversationalists instead of lecturers may stand to benefit most.