Why Humanitarian Aid is NOT Crest Toothpaste
Posted by Allison Fine on July 9, 2009
It is astonishing when very thoughtful, passionate people get something so utterly wrong. It’s even worse when that wrongheadeness is in the op-ed section of the New York Times for the world to see and many to take as gospel.
This morning, Nick Kristof writes:
One of the reasons, I believe, is that humanitarians are abjectly ineffective at selling their causes. Any brand of toothpaste is peddled with far more sophistication than the life-saving work of aid groups. Do-gooders also have a penchant for exaggeration, so that the public often has more trust in the effectiveness of toothpaste than of humanitarian aid.
This is so totally and completely wrong!!! The problem isn’t that we don’t sell causes like toothpaste, the problem is that we too often DO sell them like toothpaste.
Should we act more like Tropicana and spend millions not listening to customers, repackaging a brand in a way that is universally panned, sales plummet and spend millions more undoing the damage? It is exactly these kinds of habits, of developing messages that are focused groups but have no real connection with regular people, of doing things at people rather than with them that were created on Madison Avenue and adopted by too many cause organizations that has led us to this place of silos and fortresses, of public relations people and marketers working at odds with program people, of “selling” causes rather than weaving networks.
Cause organizations need to throw out the old toothpaste playbook and start working from a new one that focuses on building strong, trusting relationships and really connecting with people, influentials and regular folks. We need to facilitate lots and lots of conversatios online and on land about the underlying issues, what’s hard, what needs to be done, and engage millions of people in solving social problems. And we need to stop judging people if they want to give to one hungry child rather than eradicate hunger because it makes them feel good. Our focus, as cause folks, needs to be on creating lots and lots of opportunities for lots and lots of people to participate in ways that work for them — not to buy the cream or rinse or lotion that we’re selling because we’re trying to make a profit.
Acchhh, now Kristof has ruined my whole day with one smart-ass moment at his keyboard and I’m going to have to spend of it cleaning up after him. Maybe I’ll send him the cleaning bill.
This entry was posted on July 9, 2009 at 5:59 am and is filed under Social Media. Tagged: humanitarian aid, Nick Kristof. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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