On the Net, everyone is competing for attention, but two things seem to increase your signal strength – 1) make the media appealing 2) talk to people on their terms.
Here’s an excellent resource that shows how to get your message across – Visualizing Information for Advocacy:
Advocacy organizations tend to collect a lot of information.
They often package this information into detailed written reports. While these reports support policy recommendations and are valuable reference tools, they may not be the most effective way to make an impact within a campaign.
We live in an information-rich environment and in our daily lives constantly receive messages conveyed through design. Many of these messages seek to influence as well as inform, serving a variety of commercial and non-commercial interests. How do you make your message heard?
It’s packed with good examples of information design, as shown by the cover which has visuals from a campaign that developed an analogy between federal land grants and use of the airwaves (read the booklet for more information):
The message here is that all the information in the world won’t help if it’s not received, which is what the marketing and advertising industry has known for a long time. For those in non-profits, or in training, this is something that should be considered in all of our work. It’s especially important when people have the option of paying attention. As the authors say:
You’ve got data, now what to do with it?
How do you tell your story more effectively?
How can you move your audience?
Another example of getting your message across is a recent video by Canada’s Sons of Maxwell: United Breaks Guitars. It shows how a message can go viral on YouTube, much to the chagrin of United Airlines, whose employees broke the band’s guitar and the company would not pay compensation. This video got the attention of over 2.5 million people in less than a week. Though well-produced, it was the timing and the grassroots appeal that really spread this video. This is almost impossible to plan for and I wouldn’t trust anyone who “guaranteed” that my message would go viral.
Face it, even if your organizational marketing or instructional video is informative and professionally done, it probably won’t attract 2.5 million visits or ever go viral. That reinforces the need to also talk to people on their terms. This is especially pertinent if your audience is online and can click away at any time (Captive audiences are a different situation).
Communicating with people on the Internet means engaging in meaningful conversations, one at a time. As the Cluetrain Manifesto informed us 10 years ago:
- Markets are conversations.
- Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors.
- Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice.
- Whether delivering information, opinions, perspectives, dissenting arguments or humorous asides, the human voice is typically open, natural, uncontrived.
- People recognize each other as such from the sound of this voice.
- The Internet is enabling conversations among human beings that were simply not possible in the era of mass media.
- Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy.
- In both internetworked markets and among intranetworked employees, people are speaking to each other in a powerful new way.
- These networked conversations are enabling powerful new forms of social organization and knowledge exchange to emerge.
So gather all that useful data, tell a compelling story using good design and understand your audience well enough to speak on their terms.
Here’s another fine example: the credit crisis visualized.