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Friday, December 11, 2009


Why are the psychological sales tactics of, say, selling soap, not used by those who want you to care about Darfur? New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wondered this after failing to get his readers interested in the developing world. But that was then. Kristof explains how he’s now using the secrets of marketing and PR to effect change.

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Comments [6]

Eric from NY

President Lincoln said it best: 'with public sentiment, nothing can fail, without it, nothing can succeed.' In our media-saturated world, activists must begin to utilize modern communications techniques and methods effectively, and not just social media. The fact is access to the most powerful communications medium - TV - is very expensive and thus out of reach for most activists. For decades, respected scientists and policymakers have stressed the importance of engaging the public worldwide on climate and environmental issues, but not one, to my knowledge, has offered or executed a comprehensive strategy to mobilize the modern communications assets--advertising, public relations--necessary in today's media environment to accomplish the task. Note that the opponents of climate or alternative energy utilize sophisticated marketing to confuse the issue. It will cost money but it is incumbent on the activists and organizations if they hope to compete effectively for public sentiment and support. Like it or not, figuring out how to communicate effectively and get their messages in the popular mass media must become a central objective.

Dec. 19 2009 12:24 PM
matt from Pennsylvania, USA

Earlier this week a friend sent me Kristoff's article, so it was a pleasant suprise to hear the story. As someone who has been in charitable gift fundraising for 20+ years, I will tell you that he is exactly right. Most people relate to other people, not numbers. Are we surprised that Madison Ave. uses this fact to attract us as customers? No. Does it make Kristoff less of a journalist by bringing his readers stories that they naturally connect to? No. He just selects subjects that have need - extreme need. He would be no less of a journalist if he did a profile on an American soldier in Iraq or a waitress in Colorado. Charities would be better off to heed his lessons - ask with the mission in mind - and show that mission in a person.

Dec. 13 2009 06:03 PM

Toy companies go to psychology professors to figure out how best to market to children.

So why shouldn't Kristof make his message as subliminally activating as possible and in undisclosed ways?

What a journalist!

Dec. 13 2009 03:23 PM

What sort of journalism is that?

It's not just yellow journalism, but SUPER YELLOW NOW WITH ENZYMES!

Dec. 13 2009 03:21 PM
sarah from Nashville, TN

Great program but I'm stopping by to express my surprise (& delight) at hearing a clip from Talk Talk's FABULOUS album "Laughing Stock". This has long been one of my "Island 10" list of albums - I just LOVE it but it is so obscure that I am really surprised to hear it on a public radio program!! Way to go! :)

Dec. 13 2009 02:35 PM
Juliana Shepherd from Phoenix, AZ

As a marketing intern this summer for a well known international aid organization here in Phoenix, I was in charge of essentially making poverty relief look sexy enough to attract donors. Having no previous experience in marketing, I looked at other organizations that were successful in their marketing and what I found were orgs like Kiva and Charity Water who were putting emphasis on cutting out the middle man idea and allowing the public to at least feel like they were individually making a difference- every penny. Kiva allows us to get to know the individuals who we are lending to, and Charity Water makes sure we know that all our money goes to the wells.
Donors want intimacy, they want a sense of relationship.. We're sick of continuous images of children with flies on their faces thats try to sentimentally guilt us into giving. We want to be hoped into giving! So I think Kristof is pretty right.. Although, I think of marketing more as telling a story than psychological persuasion to sell a product... You can tell the same story a million different ways and each way invokes a different reaction. Want a good reaction? Learn to tell stories well, and I think Kristof has.

Dec. 13 2009 01:25 AM

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