The reason I ask of course is related to the petition on change.org to reinstate Jeremy Clarkson to Top Gear after his suspension for allegedly punching a producer in the face for not providing a hot meal after a day of filming. Fairly depressingly the Jeremy Clarkson petition gained nearly 1 million signatures within 1 week and has set the website's record for fastest growing campaign in history whereas a petition calling on the UK government to enforce the law which forbids FGM has only gained 8,306 signatures in the 3 years it has been running.
So, how can we as charities get our causes to galvanise the British public to react in the same way they have done so in this instance? Here are my top tips for getting your cause to cut through the media noise:
- Tell a story - no-one likes to read dry facts, but hearing the personal story of someone affected by your cause can tug at people's heartstrings and make them engage with your charity.
- Try and use everyday language - this may be difficult if you are dealing with a hard to pronounce condition but you need to do something (e.g. spell it out phonetically next to the word and explain what you mean) or people will tune out, and even if they do support you, they are less likely to tell someone else about it as they won't feel confident explaining it.
- Know your audience - who are the people most likely to be affected by your cause directly or indirectly? What do they do and where do they consume their media? If you are dealing with an issue that mainly affects middle-aged women, it is not going to help you very much if GQ print your story.
- Don't shy away from unsavoury facts - whilst I'm not advocating the use of shock tactics in order to get people's attention, there is no point in hiding a truth about your cause because you think people don't want to hear it. Many things that used to be taboo are no longer so because people were brave enough to talk about it. So let people know what you are dealing with, open the debate and hopefully change things.
- Don't forget to ask something - if the media channel you are using doesn't edit it out, ensure there is always an ask in your story. Whether it is for donations, signatures on a petition, registering for an event or simply for people to visit your website and find out more, don't leave potentially fired up people with no way of helping your charity out.
- Make friends with the media - if you are a small charity with a tiny or even non-existent media budget you will not be able to afford advertising to let people know about your cause. However, by building good relationships with journalists they are more likely to put your great personal interest story in their magazine/paper/website when you have one, and they might even be able to give you some advertising space pro bono that they have been unable to fill.