Surprise! Your Shortcut to Connection

Nonprofit Message Magic: Surprise

Shaping messages to be relevant to the people we want to to engage and spur to action is the most reliable path to productive marketing. Relevance rules!

But there’s more you can do, once you get to relevance. Over the last few months, my passion to find, analyze and guide you to the most effective messaging possible has uncovered a few additional secret ingredients that are absolute magic. Today, let’s talk surprise…

Take a look at the poster above, which I saw at the Santa Fe Farmer’s Market last month:  Ask me why I love volunteering in prison.

Being a good person. Helping to make the world a better place for our children. Securing recognition in the community. Those are more typical motivations for volunteering. But loving working with prisoners IN PRISON to develop non-violent conflict resolution skills via the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP).  That’s surprising!

Surprise works by highlighting the gap between the expected and the unexpected in a specific and accessible way. Think x, see y and puzzle on the disconnect.

When your audiences’ recognize this gap (it has to happen in a flash), it piques their curiosity and interest, drawing them in. When they pause to try to close the gap in their minds or—best case scenario—to discuss it with you, that’s success. Getting your peoples’ wheels going is one of the strongest ways to connect there is.

The AVP volunteer booth staffers I met said  their surprising message worked powerfully to generate questions and conversations. Many folks inquired about volunteering and a corrections officer reamed them out on what was really needed in prisons. Be aware…when you put the unexpected out there, the engagement you spur might not always be positive. But the corrections officer was not among AVP’s target audiences, so that’s okay.

Once you shape relevant messages—linked clearly and closely with your audiences’ wants, habits and preferences—try sprinkling in a little surprise. Let me know how it goes.

Eager to hear how you weave surprise into your organization’s messages. Please share your surprising messages, and their impact, here. Thanks.

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Nancy Schwartz on October 13, 2015 in Messaging | 0 comments
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