How to Build Your Base around A Difficult Issue – Pls Share Your Ideas

You know an emotional hook is the best way to engage your target audiences at first, followed by reasoning, asks, etc. The heart leads, with the head following. That’s because all of us can easily relate – emotionally – to human stories and those pull us in and make us more open minded to the information or ask that follows.

But those of you whose organizations deal with difficult and emotionally-weighted issues — such as rape, eating disorders or domestic violence– have a real challenge in crafting that emotional hook. For many, the issues you’re diving into and making better for those who go through them are issues that folks just don’t want to talk about. Eyes wide shut!

The Challenge – Building a Base around a Difficult Issue
Jill Worrall, a nonprofit consultant I met recently — at theMarketing ByAssociation conference where I keynoted in Februrary — posed her huge “difficult challenge” to me and I hope you can help me guide her: Jill works with SAFE (SExual Abuse Family Education), an organization focused on reintegrating sexual offenders (including pedophiles) into society, and she finds it incredibly difficult to engage her target audiences in the cause. The issue makes them squeamish, so how could they possibly support the cause?

My immediate reaction to hearing about sex offenders is revulsion. What’s yours?

My Recommendation – Please Add Yours
My recommendation to Jill is to focus the organization’s messaging on the positive changes in the world our children live in, that will be made by the organization’s work with sexual offenders. That way the lead (and emotional hook) is positive), and the strategy (education, therapy, etc.) comes second. It’s far more likely that folks will get engaged through taking this approach.

In addition, she should:

  • Focus on the likely values match between SAFE and its prospective supporters — a community where children can live safely, and parents can relax.
  • Talk about success stories, focusing on the after.
  • More ideas here: Communicating on Difficult Issues

What guidance can you share with Jill?
Please comment here to ensure she gets it! Thank you.

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Nancy Schwartz on April 20, 2011 in Strategy | 3 comments
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  • Mary Lou Ledgerwood

    I think the focus should be first on education and then on how SAFE can help.
    Education: what do the experts say, profiles, FAQ, effects on all parties, town meeting or focus group.
    Positioning SAFE: what the SAFE program consists of, success statistics, objectives/goals, how the target audience benefits, how everyone benefits.

  • Jacqueline Way

    I have a site that is all about giving back. For these past offenders what if the focus on some was how they are giving back in a positive way to their community or the world. Stories of giving are very inspiring as I am discovering through my blog and if people felt they were contributing in ways such as volunteer work it may put a new twist on how they will feel about them personally and their past history. I hope this helps in some way.

  • Eric Larson

    The difficulty with this issue is that most people believe (and I think studies support the assertion) that pedophiles cannot be reformed. If the research actually shows that is not the case, then that needs to be right out front during any appeal. If I think the premise of your organization is false, I’m not going to listen for long and surely not going to help.

    If the organization is mitigating harm in some way, then it needs to come off as a realistic organization that is making families safe in measurable, meaningful ways. In other words, if you’re not pretending to reform pedophiles, what is it you are doing that is going to make it less likely or harder for someone to harm my child?

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