They’re fine with the idea of making a video or sending out a newsletter. They have no problem with talking about their work, spreading awareness, getting their message out there. But when I bring up the idea of conducting research and focusing their messaging, they grow uncomfortable.
“I don’t want to bother people,” I’ve been told countless times. Or, “Why do we need research? Can’t we just say what we feel?”
I believe it’s due to a misunderstanding of what I mean when I use that word—a misunderstanding that’s important for me to clear up so my clients can benefit from this valuable tool, which in fact lies at the heart of my profession.
Nobody likes a pushy salesman.
We’ve all encountered this kind of figure somewhere or another: the slick, charming telemarketer, or the fast-talking used-car dealer. These professionals don’t really believe in what they’re selling.
Even if they succeed, you certainly aren’t left feeling good about what just transpired. Even more than that, you probably make sure to avoid this person in the future so you don’t get taken for a ride again.
I just know that this is what my clients are thinking of when they hear me start talking about messaging and strategy. They think that I’m trying to build them a spin machine, and—to their credit—they want no part of it. They don’t want to fool or badger their donors into opening their wallets. They don’t want to become that ugly, odious stereotype.
Here’s the thing about the pushy salesman: He has to resort to low tactics because he doesn’t have anything else to rely on. All he knows how to do is coerce and manufacture an audience; his pitch would be the same whether the product he’s selling is good or bad, because the quality is irrelevant to the job of making sales no matter what.
When I recommend research, I’m not advising you to learn how to trick and manipulate people who aren’t interested. I’m advising you to go and find out who is interested so you can talk directly to them.
When I talk about crafting your message, I’m not saying you should lie and spin; I’m saying that explaining your organization to outsiders is different than talking about it inside your bubble, and it may take a little planning to convey your truths effectively.
If you believe in the work you do, there’s no reason to be scared of marketing it effectively.
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