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5 Getting your audience’s attention and interest

A Christmas campaign by the charity Shelter to raise money for homeless children.
Figure 5 An attention-grabbing online campaign

In much fundraising, campaigning and promotional work, voluntary organisations are trying to raise awareness of an issue, get people interested in a cause, show them why they should get involved and, finally, persuade them to take some action. This action might be to become a member of the organisation, a volunteer, a supporter or a donor.

There is an acronym used commonly in marketing to help you think about this process: AIDA. It stands for:

  • Attention

  • Interest

  • Desire

  • Action.

In order to persuade someone to take action you have to:

  • attract their attention so that they are aware of the issue or need
  • generate interest about how the issue can be solved or met

which leads to:

  • a desire to solve the issue
  • a course of action that can be taken that will lead to a solution.

AIDA can be applied to a wide range of communication activities – from an appeal letter or email to a public meeting or a social media campaign.

Any messages that you want to communicate will be competing with a number of distractions. There is a danger that your message will get lost or distorted in this ‘noise’. Box 2 contains a number of useful ‘rules of thumb’ that can be used to make your message stand out from the crowd and improve its chances of getting people’s attention and interest.

Box 2 Creating the OOH! factor

  1. Think ‘YOU’: For instance, you usually hear your own name, even in a noisy room. So a new message will be more easily received when it is linked to something that the receiver knows about already and is also something in which she or he is interested. Thus, a message that is personalised – about ‘you’ or ‘your family’ – is more likely to catch your attention than one about more general ‘people’ or ‘families’.
  2. Think ‘NEW’: ‘Familiarity breeds contempt’ is an old saying. It means a message that is too familiar will be disregarded as ‘old hat’ or boring, or will simply fail to be noticed at all. This is one reason why advertisers tend to carry on with successful themes for a long time, but continually refresh them with new treatments of the subject. Another way that you can catch people’s attention and avoid over-familiarity is by an unexpected twist or surprise. Again, this is a technique heavily used in advertising – through the use of humour, pathos (evoking pity or sadness) or shock tactics.
  3. Think ‘BOO’: Sheer loudness or size draws attention, though this might cause irritation, particularly if the place or time is inappropriate. A very loud message has to be very simple as well because we can only take in so much at a time – a poster in large letters might be unmissable, but there is only room for it to contain a few words.
  4. Think ‘VIEW’: A strong visual image is one of the most successful ways to grab attention. This is why most advertisements include both a picture and words making the same point – the aim is to appeal to your emotions and your reason at the same time, as well as emphasising the message in two ways. This is even true of radio advertising, where images are created in your mind.
  5. Think ‘DO’: Asking people to take an action also reinforces the message. Once you have filled in a form or made a purchase, you have developed some commitment to the item itself. You are now more likely to recognise its name if you see or hear it again and, if you then obtained satisfaction, to have built up a favourable conception. As the saying goes, ‘Your best customers are your last customers.’
  6. Think ‘COO’: A positive message is more likely to be picked up or responded to than a negative, downbeat one. Most of us have problems enough of our own without needing to add other people’s to them. The key is to show how, say, a donation or support is making a difference by stressing what achievements will result. This is especially the case when an organisation is asking for support over a period of time.

Activity 7 Assessing the message

Timing: Allow approximately 5 minutes

Look at the poster in Figure 5 and then note down examples of where you can see the use of the rules of thumb described in Box 2.

Table 1 Analysing the OOH! factor
Rule of thumbExample
‘YOU’ …
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‘NEW’ …
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‘BOO’ …
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‘VIEW’ …
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‘DO’ …
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‘COO’ …
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Words: 0
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YOU – The text asks for ‘your’ support and ‘just £3 from you can help …’ The poster is trying to make a generic appeal more targeted or personalised to individuals.

NEW – This was a ‘NEW’ campaign and poster, despite the issue being a long-standing one. Shelter usually produces a new poster each Christmas to raise funds for homeless children and families.

BOO – The poster catches the attention with a dramatic headline, ‘Please don’t forget our homeless children this Christmas’, which is reinforced by the bold print to create a ‘BOO’ effect.

VIEW – The striking visual image of the child also catches the attention, humanises the story and is likely to evoke sympathy, particularly at Christmas.

DO – There is a clear call to action by asking you to donate by text with a specific amount of £3.

COO – The poster invites the reader to feel part of an important campaign that affects many people’s lives, but also reminds people that not everyone has a home at Christmas. It highlights that money raised can help Shelter respond to an urgent call and find accommodation for homeless children.

Sharing and liking things on social media is more commonplace, but many voluntary organisations are trying to make more of this attention and translate it into actual support or fundraising. For example, Cancer Research was quick to respond to requests for information when the ‘#nomakeupselfie’ interest started – people assumed the charity had started the campaign but they had not. The organisation then posted one selfie of a member of staff with their text code for donations, which resulted in a successful fundraising campaign (Miranda and Steiner, 2014).