Photo via Creative Commons
A couple of months ago, a friend of mine on Facebook promoted a cause via a mutual friend of ours. It was noted that the mutual friend was involved in the cause and because the cause related to the person’s own home country, the assumption at least on my part was that this was a personal effort. The cause was innovative, involved the empowerment of women, and just seemed very interesting, so I was happy to begin promoting it on Facebook and on Twitter. The person behind the cause saw my tweet one day, said thank you, and then added something about how this was especially cool because the cause was actually their client.
That left a very bad taste in my mouth.
There is definitely nothing wrong with promoting your cause. Indeed, we have offered a lot of advice here on this blog regarding some great ways to drive traffic to your website, increase donations, and more. There are some pitfalls that you want to make sure you avoid, however. A single mistake, if it leaves a bad enough taste, can be enough to ruin all of the good marketing work you have done. Here are some ideas to consider.
Make sure your relationship with the cause is 100% clear
The mistake the person made in my introductory story was not working professionally with a cause. Rather, the mistake was not being upfront about that relationship in the beginning. Helping someone promote a client is different from helping someone promote a cause they simply care about. While you still might be willing to do the former, it’s something you want to do while fully aware. Otherwise you can feel a little like you were simply being used for professional advancement, and that’s not good. By the same token, if you actually work for a cause you are promoting you should be transparent about that as well. Indicating that you are just interested in the cause in order to get your network interested is not an advisable path to take when promoting your organization.
Remember that it’s about the cause, not about you
Marketers working with for-profit organizations and marketers promoting NPOs tend to become ensnared by the siren song of online celebrity. Promoting a cause can evolve over time into you trying to gain more followers for your personal Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or G+ account. It begins with the rationale that the more pull you have the better you will be able to promote your cause, but then things can get a little bit out of control. In more recent times I have even seen people try to promote a cause or effort by tagging the Ellen Degeneres show or other celebrities so that the cause can go “viral.” These efforts become much more about the person than the cause. Keep your objective clear. If the idea is to raise awareness, focus on that. If the idea is to increase donations, focus on that. If you find yourself straying into territory that is more about your own online success, you know that you need to refresh your approach.
Be clear about your objective with others
Finally, it is very important that you are transparent about your objectives as you promote your cause. This is not only a part of being fully transparent but it will also help you reach your objective more effectively. If you clarify for people that what you are hoping for is increased awareness, that will signal them that you are hoping they share your blog posts, your page, your status updates, or whatever else you are sending out. As people share your content they will also know to ask other people to share as well, exponentially increasing your cause’s reach.
On the other hand, if your goal is to increase donations, people may share your content with an added note asking people to donate and/or share to the cause. Incorporating your objective into your content will also help clarify your work with your cause. If you begin with, “We are hoping to raise $500,000 this year” then the story you tell to engage interest will be in the correct context. When people decide to share that story they will know they are sharing it as part of an effort to help you raise money. Ambiguity is not your friend in any kind of marketing.
The online world can be a complex one to navigate. When promoting your cause, just remember that there is no such thing as over-communicating. People should understand your ties to the cause (if any), what you are hoping to accomplish, and more.
What mistakes have you seen people make when trying to promote a cause? How would you recommend they fix those mistakes? We’d love to hear from you!