A growing number of foundations are making greater efforts to influence public policy, and in ways that range from producing health news that bolster understanding of necessary system reforms to supporting cross-agency communication and coordination to improve metropolitan land-use policies and practice, among others.
Aggressive and innovative communications are central to this policy work. Some of the strategies foundations are using are explored in research produced by the University of Southern California’s Center on Philanthropy and Public Policy and in a companion discussion paper, “The Communications Supercharge: How Foundations are Using Communications to Boost Policy Engagement.”
During the four years I served as a head of a 10-year, $30 million grantmaking initiative at the Chicago Community Trust, I attended my fair share of both local and national meetings with program officers. Contrasting that experience with the past two Communications Network conferences in New York and Chicago, I have found that communication professionals tend to be even more friendly and more passionate about harnessing innovation for social impact than program staff.
Maybe it hasn’t always been that way. Maybe our members were selected for their positions precisely because of they demonstrated an openness to change — since change is the one constant in today’s communication landscape. Or maybe the rate of change has given more of us permission to admit what we don’t know, to seek guidance from brethren who might, to celebrate each small victory we see our peers achieve.
If you want to get people to take action you have to appeal to their emotions, and in particular, things they care about. In this video, Doug Hattaway, president and CEO of Hattaway Communications, discusses the difference between what he calls “functional communications” — the layering on of “who, what and when” kinds of details — vs. more powerful “aspirational communications” which engage people in issues and causes and get them to respond.
During the course of his conversation with Communications Network contributor Susan Herr, Hattaway also describes some of the emerging scientific research that can be applied to developing emotionally appealing communications campaigns.