Trying to raise awareness? Reset your goals
Many nonprofits believe that, if truly understood correctly, the public would shift their opinions about their issue and act differently. Unfortunately, there’s abundant evidence that this simply isn’t true: a lack of information isn’t what’s stopping your audiences from caring. In reality, we make decisions based on a variety of information, including religious beliefs, values, and more. Often, we make decisions with little or no information at all. We also like to have our own opinions considered and part of the conversation, so just being educated about something can feel too one-sided.
Our minds prefer to solve problems in simple, straightforward ways.
It makes sense: with so much information to constantly process, we’ve got to make sense of it fast and file it away for future reference. The brain has actually been called a “cognitive miser” for this reason.
Ann Christiano and Annie Neimand’s article, “Stop Raising Awareness Already,” published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, references the information deficit model- term scientists coined for the idea of sharing more information to change behavior- as the primary reason so many nonprofits try to raise awareness for their issues. Christiano and Neimand’s article emphasizes the importance of action: inspiring the audience to engage with something, not just become aware of it. Amen to that!
If you’re trying to engage your audiences with your issue give their piece a read—and follow it up with my post, “8 ways your attempts to raise awareness will likely fail” if your own cognitive miserliness hasn’t kicked in after that. Need an example of a focused campaign that worked? Check out our collaboration with the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health’s Yo Te Apoyo campaign to shift the narrative around abortion.