Some very smart organizations are employing a communications tactic that I admire. They are taking one of the toughest storytelling challenges and framing people around the world as what they are — real heroes.
If any of you has gone through Washington’s Reagan Airport recently, you’ve seen the clever ads by Oxfam America that tell the stories of people in developing countries who are doing heroic things to improve their economy, the health of their families, and the rights of their societies. It employs smart communications to build awareness, drive advocacy, and make news about why aid from the U.S. matters – to them and to us. Instead of portraying these people as “needy” they are focusing on what they are doing with the help of smart international development assistance. The solutions to the global problems they highlight are local – as are the people who own them. And these people are “action” heroes because they are doing something innovative and making progress. I’ve asked a lot of people about the campaign (both people from the U.S. and around the world, those who “work on” development assistance and those who don’t know much about the issue). They agree that the look and feel of the campaign is clever, without being condescending. I get energized every time I walk pass these ads because they remind me that good storytelling in public relations of any kind isn’t about a story – it’s about a people that are the subject of a compelling story. This campaign, in my opinion, is heroic.
I continue to be inspired by the DC Comics “We Can Be Heroes” Campaign. This savvy campaign is enlisting people everywhere to join forces with the superheroes they grew up with (and that we all secretly think we are!) to join in an important mission…the fight against hunger in Africa. I still get goose bumps when I see the faces of member of the Justice League juxtaposed with people like you and me who support Save the Children, International Rescue Committee and Mercy Corps. This effort reminds me that, at our core, we are people who believe we can make a difference and help save the day only when we come together to match our various “superpowers” with the community around us. Check out the campaign and watch the video here.
Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the smart work that my colleagues at the United Nations Foundation’s Nothing But Nets campaign put together last year to highlight champions in the fight against malaria. I love this campaign’s work to show that everyone, from a student to a CEO, a basketball player to a bishop or boy scout, can do to solve a global problem. When we saw people react to the video message about this campaign debut in Times Square last year, it was clear that the message resonates, because it’s real. The people who fight disease are heroes, and so is the campaign.
We all have something heroic inside of us. While I know it may not a new PR tactic, it is always smart communications to help bring out that most noble instinct in someone when it can help them spring into action and deliver high-impact results in a respectful, meaningful and smart way. That’s heroic indeed.