Campaign Bootcamp: Module 4 - messages with purpose

In module 4 of the campaign planning process I’m going to look at messages with purpose.

Just a quick recap before I do. Before you come to write your messages, my previous blog posts have talked about some steps you can take first which will make this bit easier.  They’ve covered: what type of campaign to use; how set a ‘good goal’ and ideas on how to research the the who, what, why and when of your target audience.

So, using the example of an environmental charity that I mentioned before, this could mean that you’d be clear on the:

  1. Goal Get 20 more families to buy a year’s supporter package in the next 3 months

  2. Audience Families who live near our sites, and have been to our family events

  3. Purpose of the campaign - persuade them to buy the ‘family supporter’ package

Now comes the fun part! How do you create messages with purpose that will persuade your target audience to take the action you want them to take so you can achieve your campaign goal?

A structure for your messages

Starting with a blank sheet of paper can be daunting. When you’re thinking about what to include in your messages, you can use a ‘feel, know, do’ sequence as a guide to help pinpoint what you need to include in your messages.

  1. What do your audience need to feel to take the action you want after seeing your message?

Why are feelings so important? It’s because people make decisions based on how they feel, not logic. If this doesn’t seem credible you can look into it more eg this article Harvard Professor 95% of purchasing decisions are subconscious. He explains more on how feelings drive people’s decisions, including purchase behaviours. “As the old saying goes, sell the sizzle, not the steak”.

2. What do they need to know to take the action you want?

In tackling this it can be helpful to think of making sure they have the information they need to understand 3 key things: the relevance of your message for them, why they can believe / trust you (your credibility), and the results that will follow (the value they will get).

3. Have you made it clear what action to take?

An obvious point, but you also need to be super clear on what they need to do. Don’t make it complicated! People do better with simple, easy to follow instructions. This is often referred to as using a ‘call to action’ in online marketing.

So, to recap this: you’re looking for a message that helps you engage people’s feelings, gives them information about why this message is relevant to them, reassures them you are credible and helps them see the value you offer them (the ‘what’s in it for me’ factor). And finally, your message needs to clearly signpost the action you want them to take.  

Using info from your market research

If you’ve done the sort of market research discussed in the earlier post, it will have given you some insight to your existing audience. This will mean you can take some of the guesswork out of this process by looking at what’s worked in the past - what were the feelings, information and action that worked for those you’ve already successfully engaged?

So, in our example, for the families that already joined as supporters…

  1. What did they feel … that led them to join

  2. What did they know … that made joining seem a good fit for them

  3. What did they do ... .. to join

Scanning your research (ie write ups of interviews or answers to surveys, for example) could throw up things like …

Feelings “As a parent, I was happy to hear there were opportunities for my kids to get involved with activities outdoors as I worry they don’t do enough - not as much as I did certainly. Its difficult to make wildlife seem as enticing as staying in and watching TV, I feel I  don’t really know enough about wildlife to be able to make it sound interesting to my kids so I was encouraged that the events and supporter material had ideas and info that would help me to tempt my children into being interested in doing more things outdoors”.

Knowledge “Before doing the family event, I didn’t know that the charity existed. The guide explained that a lot of the work you do relies on money donated - and that you were only able to put that pond in because of additional fundraising. I also didn’t know much about how ponds bring to local habitats - frogs and newts are very vulnerable to climate changes apparently and are declining, which is sad. When they explained about the supporter scheme I thought it was an affordable way we as a family could support something local that we also get to appreciate on our walks”.

Do “They offered to put our event fee towards the cost of a family sponsor package if we signed up at the event, so I did. They emailed us the info the next week along with a personal thank you from the event guide which I thought was nice”.

How to pull it together - some helpful strategies

So how do you pull all this insight together, in a way which helps you create your messages with purpose that will be effective?

Sticking to our example above, we’ve might decide we’re looking for messaging that:

  • helps engage people’s feelings

Eg could reference parents’ worry - about not enough outdoor activity, not enough expertise to make the outdoors appealing. And draw attention to: positive opportunity to have expert help in getting their kids out enjoying the local outdoors more, understanding the risks to habitat and what they can do that helps

  • gives them information about why this message is relevant to them, reassures them you are credible and helps them see the value you offer them (the ‘what’s in it for me’ factor).

Eg info needs to communicate things like - tell them charity exists, the importance of local environmental work in tackling risks to habitat and wildlife, the track record of doing things that make a difference and potential to do more with more support

  • And finally, your message needs to clearly signpost the action you want them to take.  

Eg make a ‘family supporter’ pack/offer that they can easily buy!

This sets out the ‘bones’ of a campaign, the general narrative of the messages you want to communicate to successfully engage and persuade your audience to do what you need them to do.

This outline will help you understand what sort of content you need to include in your messages. This doesn’t narrow down exactly how you’re going to communicate these messages - there’s lots of choice. (NB Choose an approach that is both easy and affordable for you to do, and gets the results you are after!).

Here are some ideas of approaches you can use to get your messages across which may help to give you some ideas.

NB Important to note at this point: messages don’t need to be written: they can be communicated in pictures, events, verbally and also, in the way you  behave with people.

(This last point can often be overlooked, but people’s experience of your organisation will invoke feelings in them: they will be ‘learning’ about you from any point of contact they have with you, so its good to think about how your behaviour can support any campaign messages if you can).

Strategies for communicating your campaign messages

Stories

Lots of research to suggest that stories fit the way our brains work: we are more interested in them, we remember them, they leave an impression.

Do you have a story that would invoke feelings, impart knowledge and explain what they needed to do? Stories can often communicate credibility and value well … the person’s story works as evidence. NB helpful Resource

Example: in this case we could use pictures with captions to communicate eg the children who participate in reserve family events could send in a picture of them doing something at the pond with their families. With minimal extra text, shared appropriately on social media, or in a newspaper article, or flyer .. these family pictures could tell a story showing relevance, invoking good feelings about positive family experiences and sharing knowledge (the pond is a good home for local frogs who are otherwise at risk of losing habitat). Showcasing picture of various families helps establish credibility. You’d need to add in clear info on how to join.

Events

Run an event which appeals to your audience (relevance), something they enjoy (feelings) being part of, something that imparts knowledge and gives them the opportunity to do the thing you need them to do. Being part of something you’ve organised with other people will help to build your credibility and demonstrate your ability to deliver value.

Eg in this case: could run a help us  ‘build a fence /shelter/ path to the pond’. Invite local community to help, explain why it’s important, give them a great experience … and then explain why you need more supporters and how to do it.

Community

Be visible in a good and positive way in the community that your target audience are part of (NB think facebook as well as in local neighbourhood).

Being part of the same community helps you seem relevant, your visible contributions will build credibility (if they are good ones!) and you should be looking for ways to demonstrate value by being visible (eg do you offer a great local venue for local community events etc).

Your visibility should be around things that invoke useful feelings, increase knowledge and help them understand what to do.

Eg in this case: could offer the local schools the chance to visit and build a shelter? Or go into school and show them how to build a bird feeder .. explaining which birds use the reserve .. and how supporters help. Kids could take home bird feeder + info on how to sign up .. that shows how many other local families are helping (social proof).

Social Proof

People don’t like to be left out! Can you use their interest in doing what everyone else is doing to get them onboard? Being part of a group they like shows relevance for them, and is a good feeling for most.

Social proof is also a good way to build credibility - “if they like it, it must be good!”.

A good example of this if you can get your existing audience to talk about their support to their friends etc, or allow you to share their stories. If they talk about why they do it (value), that can help you share the knowledge and the ‘to do’ info as well.

Eg in this case: Could create an award to recognise the family who’ve been the most active supporters / taken the best picture / build the best bit of path ...? Advertise opportunity to enter locally so that more families see that there’s a community of families that support the charity = social proof.   

Fear of Missing Out - Scarcity

People are more likely to do something sooner if they feel it might run out! Events are a natural way of using scarcity (ie they happen, then they are gone).

This strategy can be a good one to combine with other approaches, as in itself it doesn’t necessarily tackle the relevance, credibility etc issues, but it can be a useful way to add in a bit of extra momentum.   


What method to use?

Once you’ve come up with the content for your campaign - ie you’ve got ideas about the feelings, info and value you need to communicate - and you’ve thought about a strategy to communicate your message, the next stage is to pin down what method you’re going to use.

We’ve already touched on the fact that messages are not just conveyed in written form above, but in the next post I’ll explore this in more depth, and go through some of the pros and cons of different communication methods you can use.

Sophy Hallam