Effective Messages Must be Designed for Specific Audiences

“We just need to raise awareness.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this while working on a project. And I’m guilty of saying it too. If we can figure out how to make people care, then that is a huge step. But first we have to bring the issue to their attention. And in the day of information-overload, that is nearly impossible to do.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to participate in an interview with Matthew Myers, the Founder and President of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK). Within a matter of a few years in the late ‘90s, CTFK was able to drastically reduce the number of kids who were smoking in the U.S. Their approach was a combination of media and policy change at the federal level, as well as the engagement of partners (including some unusual suspects). It was only 20 years ago, but it could have been another lifetime. That was before memes and puppy videos when viral. Before we would be guaranteed 50 emails in our inbox before we got out of bed in the morning. Before Amazon and Google started following us and eerily posted ads for items we had just looked at.

CEP’s recent article, “Moving Foundation Communications Past Raising Awareness” makes the point that “raising awareness” is largely ineffectual, and doesn’t lead to change. It has to be part of the overarching path you are going to take to achieve your vision. And this isn’t just true for foundations – it is true for all entities, whether private or public. Effective communication depends on purpose, discipline, humility and effort.

Now doesn’t that sound easy?

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