Top 5 Tips For Standing Out From The Crowd

Lori Halley 13 March 2015 0 comments

Are your non-profit communications emotional, empowering, authentic, challenging, or news-worthy?

This month’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival host, Allyson Kapin (Rad Blog), asked for insight into “how non-profits can break through the noise" and the barrage of information that bombards our supporters and members.

This is the million-dollar question for all communicators, whether non-profit or for-profit. We’re all competing with the millions of tweets, the hundreds of thousands of video uploads on YouTube, the billions of pieces of content shared on Facebook, and trillions of display ads online. It’s tough to cut through that kind of clutter. But it can be especially hard for non-profits to get their supporter’s attention, tell their story and stand out among the crowded communications channels.

Yet while there isn’t one definitive answer or secret formula, Internet-breaking campaigns – from the #IceBucketChallenge to #TheDress –  offer clues about the factors that can contribute to your message being heard, or if you’re very lucky, standing out from the crowd and “going viral”.

Clutter-busting clues round-up

When I went looking for clues for how non-profits could cut through the clutter, I found a lot of great insight and ideas. But here are my top 5 favorites.

1. Strike a positive emotional chord

In his book, Contagious, Jonah Berger includes “emotional resonance” as one of his6 STEPPS to crafting contagious content.” Berger suggests, “when we care, we share. High arousal emotions—like excitement, anger, and awe—fire people up. This activation, in turn, drives them to share [and/or act]. ”And research suggests that positive, rather than negative emotions are more commonly found in highly viral content.

2. “Tell empowering stories and avoid ‘case example syndrome’”

In other words, don’t edit the humanity and emotion out of your stories – no milk toast, bland, beige stories. (This is just one of the suggestions from Kate Marple (National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership) in an article in the Nonprofit Quarterly.)

3. “Use your authentic voice”

On the Content Marketing Institute Blog, Carol Barash offered advice on how companies can tell “authentic stories”. In translating this advice to non-profits, be sure that when telling empowering stories, you don’t go so far as depicting your organization or those you support as superheroes. Kate Marple suggests you “represent your organization as a partner in a person or community’s success, not a savior.”

4. Bring on a challenge

The Ice Bucket Challenge and #TheDress prove how we all like to be challenged and like to “join sides”. But Marple advises us to also "challenge myths about the issues [we] address." She suggests we "choose an unlikely protagonist or find a new, empowering angle for an old issue. Tell the unexpected story."

TheSalvationArmySA - #TheDress

5. Don’t compete – newsjack viral campaigns

As Rae Oglesby (United Way of Greater Atlanta) notes on the ThoughtLeaders Blog, while most non-profits were sending out their usual information and competing with #TheDress’s viral sensation last week, “the Salvation Army in South Africa didn’t just notice the conversation. It also joined in and created these brilliant ads to promote awareness of domestic violence.”

But to take advantage of viral sensations, Rae notes that you have to  “pay attention to what your volunteers, advocates and donors are saying. Listen to what the communities you serve are talking about. Then join the conversations, even if it means you have to be nimble and change your plans to do so. And always be willing to take risks. The rewards are always greater for organizations that do so.”

What do you think?

What do you think non-profits should do to “break through the clutter and noise”?

You can submit your ideas to the Nonprofit Blog Carnival (details here) or simply check back at the Rad Blog at the end of March to read the full “blog round-up”.

Image source:  Crowds – courtesy of

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Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Friday, 13 March 2015 at 8:30 AM

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