A brave new world of media for charities

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The world we live in changes daily. This morning we tried to make sense of what’s happening in the media landscape, and what it means for campaigning and fundraising. There is a tasty cocktail of trends, technologies and tactics emerging, but here are just a few.

The media landscape is in flux

Remember the days when there were five TV channels, and you obediently sat and watched the whole lot – adverts and all? Now there is more content out there than any of us can get to grips with, no matter how many box-set marathons you get through.

We rarely give one screen our full attention anymore – you’re either tweeting along to Bake Off, or browsing for a holiday, or firing off a few emails. And that’s before we get to all the ‘to dos’ that are whirring around your brain. That text you need to reply to, that outfit to return to ASOS… oh lord did I forget to get more bin bags?

The bottom line for charities is this: we need to find new and better ways to snatch and keep people’s attention.

Our generation is more “emotionally expressive”

That tense pause on X Factor before they announce who’s been voted off seems to get longer and longer every year. We perpetually live in a heightened state – exacerbated in no small part by mainstream media and advertising.

So how do charities make sure that they pack the requisite emotional punch? Especially when corporates like John Lewis and McDonalds are stealing our thunder?

It’s no news to you that storytelling is fundamental to how charities communicate their purpose and impact. Media partnerships create a fantastic opportunity to unpack an issue in a new way. You can show the light and shade, and trigger social discourse.

Consumers’ needs and expectations are evolving

To compound the challenge, prospective supporters are not only fickle and emotional, they are also cynical.

In the first half of this year, two thirds of complaints the ASA received were because adverts were misleading. Consumers take to social media when things go wrong – so that the way companies respond, and how quickly, plays out in full public view.

We’ve reached a point of peak stuff – so people value experiences more than ever. As big companies start to help consumers make memories and build communities around their shared values, charities have to work all that much harder to compete. The instant reward of doing a good thing isn’t enough to drive donations anymore.

The value of media partnerships here is in the way they create immersive experiences. To bring the issue we are grappling with to life in a powerful and memorable way. Like UNHCR’s Limbo project with the Guardian – helping British readers to begin to understand what displacement is really like for refugees.

So what?

That’s all very nice, but how is it going to help me raise money, I hear you ask? Well, in a nutshell, if the leads you are generating come from an interaction that has communicated your message in a powerful and memorable way, then you can be sure they’ll be more willing to hear from you – and to make a financial contribution.

It looks like, in the brave new world for fundraising, we are going to need to pull supporters in through intrigue and enrichment, not push them to act out of duty.

“Gone are the days when donors put their hands in their pockets without asking questions”. Too true, Aldo Lidji. Too true. Modern donors want to participate, not just to give.

Making it work

Investing in high-profile media partnerships can be expensive, I appreciate. So how do you make sure the result is worth it?

First, it paramount to define and own the narrative. Your media partner will no doubt have ideas for their audience, but a kick-arse campaign hook is only as good as the creative way in which you bring it to life. The medium you choose is a factor, but it can’t do all the work. That’s down to you (and we can definitely help).

Key to making the investment worth it is rallying your entire organisation behind the project. Members of the public interacting with you in any way – as a donor, dropping off clothes at a charity shop, or working for a corporate partner should see it and be able to participate in some way.

And the final thing is to use a multi-channel approach. That’s nothing new in the grand scheme of things – but it’s more relevant than ever. There’s that old adage that a person has to see a marketing message at least seven times before it really sinks in. Well, now we know that consumers are more distracted and emotionally frazzled than ever, it’s never been truer. And your media partner can help you reach the right people, at the right time.

It’s not always clear who’s leading who – is it the brands and media platforms who are constantly evolving, or the consumers who demand them to do so? What is clear to us at GOOD though, is that charities need to step it up a gear to stay relevant.

Without wanting to sound too BBC, I do feel duty bound to add one final word for on balance. Alexis Darker, our guest from Guardian Labs, told us how his mum has recently started volunteering for a new charity that she’s really excited about. So mum, how did you hear about them – social media? Something in the news? No; they put a leaflet through the door.

Welcome to a brave new world of media for charities. But not all new…