Thursday, April 7, 2011

Message, Audience & Self-interest

Morel knew exactly how to fit his message to his audience. He reminded British businessmen that Leopold's monopolistic system, copied by France, had shut them out of much Congo trade. To members of the clergy he talked of Christian responsibility and quoted the grim reports from missionaries. And for all Britons, and their representatives in Parliament, he evoked the widespread though unspoken belief that England had a particular responsibility to make decency prevail in the universe. Adam Hochschild, King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa, (New York: Mariner Books, 1999), Kindle Location 3745-48.

Does your message fit your audience? That is perhaps the most critical aspect of marketing. If your message does not fit the audience - you will have no one to receive it. One of the "heroes" in the fight against the Congo Free State was E.D. Morel. His crusade against the atrocities being committed there made a significant impact. His ability to reach completely different groups with the same idea was instrumental in the fight to end the crimes being committed under Leopold's regime. He understood the basic concept that people will only care about something and be moved to make a difference if they understand how an issue personally impacts them. In a nutshell, people are inherently self-interested and that self-interest needs to be engaged in order for people to act. Fitting your audience then becomes an issue of whether or not you are connecting with the self-interest within the particular group(s) of people you are trying to reach. British businessmen in 1900 were not necessarily interested in helping native Africans getting slaughtered by brutal Europeans. However, they were interested in getting a piece of the economic pie that up to that point they had been getting cut out of. Morel got them on board by hitting that nerve. So whatever it is you are trying to "sell" to people - you must tap into that nerve center that motivates based upon selfish desire. This seems to be especially true in light of philanthropy endeavors. People will give of their resources (time, money, energy, etc) if they see a personal benefit. As their selfish interests are met - they will continue to move in any sort of direction one would choose to lead them in. Selfishness is the key to philanthropy? At first it seems paradoxical to say and yet the more I look at it the more I see it to be true. People are greedy & selfish by nature. Even when we feel like we are doing something for the greater good - we often are doing so under some form of personal motivation (the need to be known, recognized, loved, appreciated...). Every move we make, we do so in light of how others might respond. Its sick, ugly and twisted. Marketing has capitalized upon it & successful leaders have used it for years. A message will only reach humanity IF it taps into it. So the question becomes - can we use this tool of our own depravity for any consistent good? In other words, can our selfishness consistently be put to good use & how?