As Creative Director of Miceli Productions HD, Jennifer Blessing Miceli leads the crafting of media messages. Fundraising campaign videos offer a unique challenge in communicating specific information along with an emotional message. A successful campaign video informs a viewer and ultimately moves them to donate, to volunteer, to support and to advocate for your organization.
Best-selling business writers Chip and Dan Heath, offer a fantastic framework for crafting messages in their recently published book, Made To Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. We felt this “sticky” framework resonated with how Miceli Productions HD crafts media messages for fundraising campaigns.
Miceli Productions HD produced a campaign video for the YWCA of New Britain, CT. Here, Jennifer uses the video as a visual example along with the the Made To Stick framework for success, to illuminate how these principles inform crafting messages with media.
Framework for S.U.C.C.E.S.s
“How do we find the essential core of our ideas? A successful defense lawyer says, “If you argue ten points, even if each is a good point, when they get back to the jury room they won’t remember any.” To strip an idea down to its core, we must be masters of exclusion. We must relentlessly prioritize. Saying something short is not the mission — sound bites are not the ideal. Proverbs are the ideal.” – Made to Stick
Jennifer: “In some ways stripping down an idea is the most important thing we do for our clients. We listen to all the details and perspectives, we process and then we provide a potent distilled image or message that can come to life with video and media. Once agreed upon with our client, keeping the “simple” image or message clear and consistent takes discipline and confidence in the power of exclusion.”
“How do we get our audience to pay attention to our ideas, and how do we maintain their interest when we need time to get the ideas across? We can use surprise — an emotion whose function is to increase alertness and cause focus — to grab people’s attention. But surprise doesn’t last. For our idea to endure, we must generate interest and curiosity.” – Made to Stick
Jennifer: “It was important that we got to know the leaders, staff and volunteers in making this video. By listening to them we learned what people expect (or presume) about YWCA New Britain. We were then able to capture vignettes stories of the YW that aren’t well known to supporters. For example, the YWCA is more than a gym and community center – it is also the #1 child care provider in New Britain and the largest provider of sexual assault crisis services in CT, serving 43 towns. It was especially important that we generate interest in the crisis center by showing “behind the scenes” while still respecting the privacy and security of its population.”
“How do we make our ideas clear? We must explain our ideas in terms of human actions, in terms of sensory information. This is where so much business communication goes awry. Mission statements, synergies, strategies, visions — they are often ambiguous to the point of being meaningless.” – Made to Stick
Jennifer: “The YWCA capital campaign message boiled down to “keeping the promise”, a powerful yet fairly abstract message to illustrate with video. We focused on volunteers describing the promises of the past and featured video footage of the positive community impact delivered by those promises. We also illustrated the practical needs of “keeping the promise” to the organization – for example overcoming crowded classrooms and taking care of leaking roofs.”
“We need ways to help people test our ideas for themselves — a “try before you buy” philosophy for the world of ideas. When we’re trying to build a case for something, most of us instinctively grasp for hard numbers. But in many cases this is exactly the wrong approach. In the sole U.S. presidential debate in 1980 between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, Reagan could have cited innumerable Statistics demonstrating the sluggishness of the economy. Instead, he asked a simple question that allowed voters to test for themselves: “Before you vote, ask yourself if you are better off today than you were four years ago.”– Made to Stick
Jennifer: “Picking the right people to deliver your facts is essential. As an example, we asked the Co-Chair of the capital campaign to share that she has provided for YWCA New Britain in her estate planning. Not only did that give increased credibility to her statements, it solidified others view of her commitment and her appeal for others to give. With fundraising campaign videos, presenting a credible case for good stewardship of monies is also an important part of the message.”
“Research shows that people are more likely to make a charitable gift to a single needy individual than to an entire impoverished region. We are wired to feel things for people, not for abstractions. Sometimes the hard part is finding the right emotion to harness. For instance, it’s difficult to get teenagers to quit smoking by instilling in them a fear of the consequences, but it’s easier to get them to quit by tapping into their resentment of the duplicity of Big Tobacco.” – Made to Stick
Jennifer: “Why is a capital campaign for new construction important to a child? How does it affect a single parent’s quality of life? How does it contribute to an individual’s journey to financial stability? In our video we knew we needed to answer these important questions AND put personal faces to those children, parents, and individuals. One of our favorite parts is around 8:42 into the video where a young girl shares why she considers her classes “funducational!” which she explains means you have fun, but learn something at the same time. We wanted to feature and build upon the viewer’s emotional response to her positive outlook on life throughout the campaign video.”
“How do we get people to act on our ideas? We tell stories.” – Made to Stick
Jennifer: “Sounds straight forward and simple, right? But with video, it is important to understand that a personality and a relationship with the audience must be established to tell the story. Volunteers and people impacted by the services of the YWCA all have stories to tell and relate to. As creative director, I’m continually focusing those personalities and stories so that people will be emotionally invested and take action.”