100% Guaranteed: Messaging Disconnect Will Alienate Your Audiences

I’ve advised you to piggyback your nonprofit content on headlines and notable days to catch your target audiences in their open-minded moments. It’s an easy and reliable way to connect with your base and increase engagement.

Not surprisingly, the converse is also true. Here’s a dramatic example of how a messaging disconnect alienates the very folks you need to engage to move your mission forward:

Boomers, retirees, and those hoping to be able to retire one day are scared stiff right now as cuts to Medicare and Social Security are on the table. That’s an ideal top-of-mind news story for an organization like AARP to piggyback on, linking its advocacy agenda and the advantages of membership to maintaining quality of life for these audience segments (all of whom are potential members).

So I was shocked when a friend forwarded this recent AARP membership recruitment email, 100% focused on the organization’s Fun Food Challenge while completely ignoring these crucial issues (and this huge opportunity).

But this list-building campaign (you provide your email to participate in the challenge) doesn’t simply fail to take advantage of a powerful opportunity to show the organization’s value at a worrisome time. It’s far worse that that.

AARP’s focus on this frothy topic doubled with its failure to address the very real concerns among prospective and current members shouts of not knowing (or caring?) what’s important to its base. The contest is all about AARP, not about its audiences — the cardinal communications sin. This kind of messaging disconnect is bound to alienate prospects for the long term.

How do you ensure your organization’s messages connect with your audiences? Please share your strategies here.

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Nancy Schwartz on July 26, 2011 in Branding and Messages | 3 comments
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  • Michelle Smith

    Great post! When we started our blog (www.goodwillnne.org/blog), we were not sure what to focus on, so it was a little bit of everything – events, program news, retail events, etc. It was all over the place and did not get much response. So I stepped back, listened to our employees and customers, and we now focus on fashion, repurposed items and how to find a good deal – and all from the customer perspective, since we primarily have guest bloggers. This was a great way to ensure we stay in touch with our audience and give our customers a platform to show off their great Goodwill finds – more than anything, people love to share a good bargain!

  • Nancy Schwartz

    Thanks for sharing your process, Michelle. Nothing’s as important as the wants of your target audiences and you’ve developed an ongoing flow that way.

    Also, love the guest blogger approach. Are your customers the bloggers, or?

  • Michelle Smith

    Yes, all of our bloggers are active Goodwill customers and influential fashion bloggers in the area. So once one person writes for us, I then receive inquiries from their fellow bloggers about wanting to write, as well!

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