How To Do The Most Good When Blogging For A Good Cause

Darren Rowse of Problogger is heading to Tanzania to write about the work of international disability rehabilitation organization CBM. He’s set up a blog for the trip so we can follow along.

Jonathan Blundell saw Darren’s tweets about the upcoming trip and suggested he check out for some good examples of bloggers writing for a cause. (Thanks, Jonathan!) And then Darren tweeted asking me if I had any advice for good cause bloggers.

I sure do. Hope this helps, Darren.

Stop The Stats

Don’t use stats. OK, I know you can’t resist, so if you must use a stat, make it as tangible as you can. Instead of saying 24,000 children under the age of five die from poverty related causes everyday, say that the number would fill about 120 airplanes like the one you rode to Africa on. Or relate it to a statistic we’re familiar with: Perhaps the count is nearly ten times the number of Americans who died on 9/11. Or compare it to an opposite: The number of people starving today is roughly equivalent to the number of obese people on the planet.

Names & Faces

A person beats a number and a program any day. Don’t just tell me how many people have this problem, or benefit from that solution – show me one person and tell me their name. Human beings are wired to care about each other – not impersonal big problems and cold complex solutions. So while educating about the problem and convincing me that your solution works, don’t forget to tell me about the people. Introduce me to one.

Show Me A Story

Our ancestors sat around fires telling stories. Then we sat around radios. Then televisions. Now, websites. Stories stitch information into our minds in ways that bulleted pointed lists never will. So, make your list if you must…on scratch paper somewhere…but don’t post it. Then tell me a true story that shows me what’s on that list.

Your organization feeds and educates 10,000 children in rural poverty? Tell me a story that shows the poverty of one child – What’s he wearing, how’s he smell, how’s he speak, what’s his face doing, where’s he going? Show me how he’s being cared for – What’s he reading, where is he reading, who’s reading beside him, what’s his favorite book, does he like to read, is his mother proud, can she read, what’s on the stove, how did they eat before your organization came to help, what’s his favorite food now, how does it taste to you?

1000 Words

Pictures! Lots of pictures! And video.

What Changed Your Mind?

Tell me what you thought about this problem and solution before you saw it. How is it different than you pictured? What specific experiences – conversations, people, information, sights – changed your way of thinking? Start writing there because at least you know it worked once – it might work again and change me too.

Feelings. Wo-o-o Feelings.

We have minds and hearts. Engage them both without being manipulative. You know you’re being manipulative when you’re exaggerating or changing the truth to get what you want. Just tell me your stories the way they happened without leaving out how they made you feel. I have feelings too and I want to meet the feeling thinking people in your stories with my head and my heart.

Human. Not A Marketer.

Do not write like the organization website. Ditch the insider lingo and acronyms (like “CBM”?). Which reminds me, forget about writing in that plastic way that is search engine friendly too – just write! I’m reading to see what a real human being has to say about this organization and the people it serves. Don’t be a marketer! Be human. If you have to use a term or acronym outsiders don’t know, pause to tell me what it means.

Listen Up

Allow people to disagree or question you and your organization publicly. And talk back only when you can do so respectfully, gently, giving them any information they ask for. A dialogue builds trust and a monologue erodes it.

Just Ask

If you want me to do something, just ask. Don’t apologize for it. Don’t try to convince me. Just tell me your story about the problem, the solution, and the people affected. Then ask me to do something very specific: give, link, write, go, build…

Make It Easy

Make it very easy for me to do what you ask. If you link to a donation page, for instance, be sure there’s a big button there and not a lot of text. Pretend I’m very busy and I skim everything – because I do. So, while I realize that page with the button on it and only two sentences may not score you a lot of points with search engines, it’ll score you a lot of points with me. I need clear, concise and quick.

OK, hope that helps, Darren. Every secret isn’t here but you’ll have to take a trip with me sometime to get the rest. Want to learn how to format a jpeg to hypnotize all readers to do whatever you ask? I thought so.

Praying for you as you set off for Tanzania to have your heart and mind changed…and to change ours in the process. We’ll be reading!

Some of this post was adapted from an earlier post for public speakers titled 11 Tips For Persuaders.