Monday, October 19, 2015

Awareness, buzz -- what's next?

Do you wear pink in October? This is the designated month and color for breast cancer awareness.

And part of me asks: what does awareness do?

Angelina Jolie by Georges Biard [CC BY-SA 3.0
via Wikimedia Commons
I was aware of breast cancer when a friend was diagnosed. The planet went on Global Celebrity Alert when Angelina Jolie disclosed her double-mastectomy because a test had identified a gene linked to breast cancer.

I'd say we've got awareness covered.

What I'd rather see? Not "awareness." But a campaign that asks me to take action.

This surfaced with a client's request to create a poster promoting a medical process. I asked: "What's the call to action?"

Client's response: "There's no call to action. We're just trying to grow awareness."

Awareness? Or its hipper step-sister, buzz? Please, not again.

How many ads do we encounter every day? Estimates vary. Best guess: more than 350 per day. Add in "brand exposures," and the number increases to upwards of 5,000.

Too many messages compete for your attention each day. Your awareness message will get trampled. Or ignored. (After several NFL games where the players wear pink accessories in support of breast cancer awareness, the pink Nikes lose their punch.)

Awareness without a call-to-action accomplishes too little. Many workplaces are littered with flyers and posters preaching awareness: "Keep Your Password a Secret." "Be Quiet in a Hospital's Recovery Area." "Only You." (Sorry, Smokey.)

Consider this Rule of Communication: every message should ask someone to do something. If the poster doesn’t tell readers to visit a website, work toward a goal, share a link, ask a physician, call a phone number, use a hashtag, or make a donation, it fails to engage or motivate the viewer.

It leaves them asking: why is this here? Why should we care? What’s in it for me/us?