Here is another in my series on SXSW events. I am pleased to be attending SXSW for the first time. I am grateful for Adobe Acrobat for enabling me to attend. I will be attending some Adobe sponsored sessions. As I do with other events I will be posting my notes from most of the sessions I attend. This is the session on Positively Inspired Change Campaigns led by Stacey Monk, Founder & CEO, Epic Change and Tom Dawkins, Co-Founder, StartSomeGood.com. Here is the session description.
“Social change agents often use guilt, fear, pity, or outrage to rally an audience around a cause. But does tapping into negative emotions with the hope of creating positive change make sense? Could focusing our common attention and intention on positive emotions more effectively transform our world? This panel will explore the experiences of recent positivity-based campaigns by Epic Change and HopeLab and other examples.
Contribute to the discussion and learn how you can infuse these principles in your next campaign. Questions will include: How do positive (versus negative) emotions influence audiences? How can you build happiness, joy, inspiration and love into your next campaign? How do we inspire these best parts of ourselves in the pursuit of social change and meaningful engagement? Is positivity-based messaging more sustainable than its opposite? How do we balance some of the difficult realities of the world and the work we are doing with a positive message?”
This session is a core conversation style session so there will be much more discussion. I really like the topic and the room was small but filled even as Alf Gore spoke nearby. Stacy shares the stories of change makers in their communities. They have become known as positively based change campaigns (rather that guilt or angry driven). They first did Epic Thanks – give what you are thankful for and they raised enough to build a classroom. Next was To Mama with Love to a person who has a classroom in Africa. The challenge was to give in honor of mothers you love. This raised enough top build a signiifcant addition to the school. This is much better that campaigns based on pity. It makes the recipients feel better about themselves.
Vanessa represents StartSomeGood.com as Tom could not make it. They made a decision to not go negative and focus on good ideas. They help originations develop positive stories. It was asked if audience members feel that people are motivated more by negative messaging to move to one side and positive the other. There was split but more were on the positive side and that was where Ai was.
The example of negative message that was given was the Wounded Warrior campaign that shows soldier in wheel chair and raised $60 million. But some people feel that this erases guilt and does not promote long term giving. I would rather show a positive image of what the money can do and I have seen ads for this very worthy cause that do this.
The next question was which spreads more effectively positive or negative messages? There were more neutrals in the audience and it seemed split about equally. I was asked what if the facts are negative? But I feel that these can be put in a positive spin without sugar coating injustice like the video I saw yesterday about the community in the Rio Grande Valley that over came injustices to raise funds to send their kids to schools.
Mother Theresa said she would not participate in an anti-war rally but would join any pro-peace rally. Someone asked how can you put a positive spin on anti-smoking. People said talk what positive things you would miss by smoking and dying early like playing with your grandchildren. I have seen both positive and negative approaches to antismoking ads.
Do negative inspire action but ultimately led to inaction? There is more energy from the positive side. The Obama campaign of 2008 was a positive one and it won. I hope that continues in 2012 despite all the negative ads that will be going against him. But now I am getting all these emails from the Democrats using anger at what the other side is doing to get donations. They got more of my money with the positive approach.
I was asked what is difference between sympathy and empathy? Empathy is putting yourself in someone else’s place and sympathy is feeling sorry for someone. The person who answered said sympathy will draw more donations. Another person said the opposite.
Question: What are the bad side effects of negative non-profit campaigns? It can male the recipient feel bad about themselves or their situation. Instead, someone said to focus on trying to find a cure rather the hopeless of some diseases. The families who deal with this issue want to feel there is hope.
Someone mentioned the TV commercials with the sad dogs in sad locations and sad music. The ads allow many people to see these places as bad places where they do not want to go. You can instead have images of happy dogs finding a new home.
You need to have follow up to show the results for any campaign, especially a positive one. One study showed that positive messages spread faster on Twitter than negative one. This was consistent with Biz Stone’s talk on one of the goals of Twitter. I really appreciated the leaders for picking this topic. It is an important one today.