Marketing guru David Meerman Scott is a total rock star (I was excited to see yesterday that my amazon.com preorder of his latest book, World Wide Rave, is now winging its way to my mailbox), but his recent summary of what marketers do left out a core element.
“Your job as a marketer is to tell stories that people are eager to share with their friends, colleagues, and family members.”
Another book from amazon.com, Authentic Conversations: Moving from Manipulation to Truth and Commitment, fills in what’s missing, namely: Most workplace conversations regrettably take the form of parent-child relationships, where the boss/parent controls the interaction with the employee/child such that the boss retains the power and gets what he/she wants.
In marketing/development/fundraising, is it really any different? In most marketing/development/fundraising interactions the organization/parent controls the interaction with the donor-customer-champion/child so as to retain the power and get what it wants.
That’s the shortcoming of Scott’s idea that marketing is about “tell[ing] stories that people are eager to share”. Though it’s not Scott’s intention, such storytelling can easily devolve into organizational parents storytelling for their donor children. The implication? Organizations create stories. Donors sit in rapt attention and listen to them with glee, perhaps passing them on to other potential donors but certainly at least writing a check.
Key element of Transformational Giving: It’s about co-creating individual stories with each of our champions–their own stories, now broadened to include meaningful interaction with and, ultimately, ownership of the cause in their sphere of influence.
Subject of these stories? The champion, not your organization.
Champions tell stories about their ownership of the cause in their sphere of influence, and they tell these stories to invite those in their sphere of influence into initial cause-centered participation with them.
Development, in other words, is something we do with champions, not to them.
Telling that, in this quote at least, Scott makes no mention of the marketer’s job to listen to the stories of the people connected to the cause. Nonprofits must listen, not focus-group type of ‘listening’, but active listening which seeks to uncover passions and mobilize to action, that links stories together into narratives that blur the distinctions between organization, participant and cause.
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