Over a decade ago, I had what seemed like the perfect professional situation. I was self-employed as a strategy and marketing consultant. My part-time hours, nearly 100% flexible, provided a lovely living. But I wasn’t enthusiastic about my major client’s industry or the tactical tasks involved. I spent most of the day avoiding my work.
My volunteer time wasn’t wholly satisfying either. Passionate about animals, I was staffing outreach tables, participating in demonstrations, and handing out leaflets. Some of these efforts didn’t seem to have much impact.
Could I be inspired and effective?
That spring, I started a program to figure out what I wanted to do “when I grew up.” The process included developing a functional job description. Rather than list specific positions or fields, I summarized the characteristics of how I wanted to work. Then I shared the write-up with friends and colleagues to get their ideas on what jobs might match.
One suggested I consider becoming a humane educator. Off I went to a course at the Institute for Humane Education. This group’s approach struck me as the most effective advocacy I had seen, not just for animals, but also for the environment, human rights, social justice, and more. I discovered why so much of my volunteer time felt ineffective … and how I could become “passionately powerful.”
Caring and enthusiasm aren’t enough.
The tabling and leafleting I had done were often about pushing ideas to get people to do something. While “Just do it” is a fine athletic slogan, it’s a lousy way to motivate change. If you’ve worked for a cause, or exhorted friends or family on a particular behavior, you may have taken this approach. But do any of us respond well to someone telling us what to do? In my experience, no. We each want respect for our needs and interests. Advocates caught up in their emotions often miss the mark and lose their power of influence.
The humane education instructors didn’t lecture or preach about choices, such as buying water in plastic bottles, shopping for clothing made in China, or eating cheeseburgers. Instead, they posed questions that allowed us to reach our own conclusions. “Is this a want or a need? How does it affect you, other people, animals, and the environment? What alternatives might do more good and less harm?”
Individually and as a group, we considered benefits and barriers to taking more planet-friendly actions, while learning how to reach out to others to evaluate the same decisions. It was clear that we didn’t all value the same things. One person might become enamored of shopping secondhand to reduce the environmental impact of new clothing production. Another might take the same action, but motivated by a desire to save money.
The results were dramatic. People adopted new attitudes and immediately implemented significant lifestyle changes.
Getting people to act.
So I became a humane educator and lived happily ever after, right? Well, no. I realized that IHE’s approach reflected the same principles I’d learned in my MBA program and had advised clients on for years:
Successful businesses get people to act by being excellent marketers.
- They understand they have to cater to the needs and interests of customers.
- They’re experts in creating products, services, sales channels, and promotions that help people see more benefits than barriers to buying their offerings.
- They use research to craft messages targeted to different groups, such as based on age, gender, political view, ethnicity, etc., because they know we don’t all value the same things.
Nonprofits are increasingly using these techniques. Social marketing is the use of commercial marketing principles to achieve behavioral change that benefits individuals, groups, or society collectively. Social marketing has helped create change on public health, environmental, social justice, and other issues.
I found my answer.
In the past decade, I’ve helped people use social marketing to get better results for animal protection. Organizations, such as the ASPCA and The Humane Society of the United States, use marketing principles to accomplish more with their resources. Savvy independent advocates use these methods to convince people to adopt rather than buy a “furever friend,” sway restaurants to offer more vegetarian options in cafeterias, and persuade legislators to support animal-friendly legislation.
I recently launched my first book, Animal Impact: Secrets Proven to Achieve Results and Move the World to explain social marketing in a simplified seven-step process. I interviewed more than 60 leading advocates to add their stories, tips, and ideas. In presentations and workshops, I urge advocates to use these techniques to translate their commitment to animals into being passionately powerful. I’m especially enthusiastic about talking to college students, who can start their careers by applying effective practices on important matters.
How about you?
- Are you passionate about what you do? If not, can you find work or volunteer roles – or a combination – that would be more rewarding? Consider the functional job description I mentioned to surface new possibilities.
- What talents, skills, or abilities do you bring? Your unique mix can help accelerate results for issues and organizations that matter to you.
- If you’re promoting social change, do you engage people based on their needs and interests, help them see more benefits than barriers, and tailor your messages based on what they value? Learn more about social marketing to enhance your power to create change.
Passion is good. Power is good. Sometimes they appear to conflict. But when we put them together, we can build the world we want to see and enjoy the process.
Caryn Ginsberg works to advance humane living and vegetarian eating. Her new book, Animal Impact: Secrets Proven to Achieve Results and Move the World has been hailed by a variety of leading advocates for its practical framework and inspiring stories. A review on http://onegreenplanet.org notes, “The strategies and insights are relevant for every activist. With so many global challenges affecting people, animals, and the earth, and limited time to make a difference, Animal Impact is a must-read for anyone wanting to create a better world.”
Caryn delivers workshops and conference talks on effective advocacy, based on social marketing. She also advises organizations and has taught for Humane Society University. For more information, please visit http://animal-impact.com.
A native of Massachusetts, she lives outside Washington, DC with her husband. She is a five-time marathoner and enjoys folk music. Her back yard is home to a legion of overfed birds and squirrels.