How to Bring Hope to Your Audience in a World Full of Injustice

Guest Post by Jaclyn Blackford, Director of Communications & Marketing, Freedom 4/24

I work for Freedom 4/24, an anti-human trafficking non-profit. My job as the Director of Communications & Marketing is to make the world aware of this injustice. Human trafficking is dark, it’s sad, it’s enraging, and it’s not a light topic. I never had a problem communicating the reality of this injustice… until 2020…

When COVID-19 hit, our country seemed to divide like never before, and everyone seemed to be fearful, angry, or a mix of both.

As a marketer, was I supposed to enter into the digital hopelessness of 2020 and send out emails and social media posts about human trafficking—only adding to the hopelessness?

The Challenge of Talking About Tough Topics in 2020

Not only was our country facing the health pandemic of COVID-19, human trafficking and online exploitation skyrocketed simultaneously. Reports from the National Center of Missing and Exploited children of online child sexual exploitation doubled from 6.2 million in 2019 to 12 million through June of 2020.

People needed to know exploitation was rising. COVID-19 was all we could think about (and rightfully so), but that didn’t mean human trafficking stopped, so we could not stop raising awareness either. Why? Because parents needed to know that traffickers were strategically reaching youth online. More children were at home, away from school, isolated in their bedrooms—a trafficker’s breeding ground for building relationships with lonely vulnerable children.

In the midst of one of the darkest years in our world, we had to remind people that although trafficking and exploitation continue to exist and increase, hope can still increase too. In our campaigns and digital media, we decided to remind the world of the hope that still exists—a hope they could be a part of.

Hope Still Exists

In the anti-human trafficking world, you will probably hear the slogan “slavery still exists.” There are an estimated 40 million slaves in our world today and that’s more than at any point in history.

But what’s even more true as nonprofits grow and people become aware of human trafficking is this: Hope still exists.

Hope Still Exists was the name of our end-of-year campaign and it was all centered around stories of hope. We highlight the good we saw in 2020 despite the sadness and hardship that surrounded us.

As marketers, we must be willing to switch our strategy in an instant based on the world around us. We need to be relevant with society and care for the well being of others in our communication efforts. This requires adapting strategy when our world is face to face with a pandemic.

As our world walks through division, sickness, pandemics, and hopelessness, here are two takeaways to remember:

  1. Stay up to date with the issues surrounding your cause.
    I’m not a fan of watching the news, but I can’t be oblivious to the world of human trafficking if I am to direct the communication of it for Freedom 4/24. So, I set up alerts. Anytime an article, news headline, etc. is posted that includes keywords about human trafficking and exploitation, I get an email. I use google alerts, but regardless of what platform you use, make sure you are staying up to date so you can pivot your communication as needed.
  2. Always remember the hope.
    I want people to know about the tactics traffickers use, the devastating statistics that need to change, but more than that I want them to remember the stories of hope. Share the good that’s happening in your organization and share it well. There has to be a balance between harsh reality and hopeful reporting. Hopeful stories and good reports won’t take away from the reality of the injustice as long as you are balancing both. So, always remember the hope.

Here’s to hoping we will never have another year like 2020, but when a crisis arises, we must be ready to pivot, be creative, and do our best to communicate our message in a thoughtful and powerful way. Always stay up to date, and never shy away from hope.

Know Your Business and Marketing Niche

It’s not uncommon for business owners to be asked about their niche. This may seem like people are asking you to put yourself in a box when you can do so many things. However, this is actually a very helpful question that increases your marketing impact.

What’s a Niche?

A niche is part of a market with specific needs. When you define your niche, you have defined your market. Rather than selling all things to all people, you become focused on what you specifically offer to help a very targeted customer.

The more specific your niche, the easier it is for people and search engines to understand what you do. You are able to use specific words and illustrations that are more memorable – and index-able – than the general, global words everyone else uses. You are focused, and that helps others understand exactly what you do.

Find Your Niche

To find your marketing niche, start by identifying the main category that you fit into. Then, work to narrow it down. Ideally, you want to find a niche that is not too general, but not so specific that you’re missing out on opportunities.

Next, consider your customers. What do they have in common? Think beyond general characteristics like age and income and go deeper. What are their common needs? Frustrations?

Consider these kinds of questions:

  • Are you (mainly) selling to consumers or to businesses?
  • Where is your audience located?
  • How old are the youngest and oldest people you think might be interested in your offering?
  • Is there a large majority of a single gender in your audience, or is it a mixture?
  • What kind of values do they have?
  • What kind of lifestyles?

By identifying the kind of audience you want to target, you can make a much bigger impact. This is partly because the more niche you go, the less competition you will face, so it’s already easier to stand out. But knowing your niche also means you can identify your audience’s needs more easily and understand how you help them.

Now focus on your products and services. What makes people buy? What makes your offerings unique? You can start simple: does your product look different from competing products, is it a different color or shape? Does it have additional features that other models don’t include? Is it a luxury product or a budget option?

Sum It Up – Your Niche

Now you’ve spent time defining your category, your audience, and your product, put it all together. Focus on the details that really stand out to you. Add these details to your category and you should start discovering your niche. Your goal is to find a niche that’s not too general, but not so specific that you miss out on opportunities.

You aren’t done. Your business will evolve, and your niche along with it. Be sure to check in again on all the steps of defining your niche to stay on top of changes and to maintain the right focus.

Win with these Best Practices for Online Content

It’s easy to post content online, but not everything you publish will get attention. To get attention online takes planning. These best practices for online content will help your content rise above the clutter.

Create an Awesome Title/Headline

The headline (or subject line in the case of email) is the first thing users read. If there isn’t a title, like there is for web pages and blog posts, the first sentence is the attention grabber.

Great headlines:

  • Promise a specific benefit
  • Use numbers
  • Ask a question
  • Create urgency
  • Trigger curiosity or emotion
  • Use a keyword that defines the content

Use Special Characters and Emoji

Special characters add visual prominence. Research shows that special characters and emoji that are relevant to the content enhance the communication of meaning and interest in the content.

Don’t overdo it. Too many emoji have the opposite effect and make your content look low-quality or spammy.

Hashtag on Platforms that Use Them

Some online platforms use hashtags to organize content. Examples include Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. Use them when relevant.

It’s important to use hashtags that are relevant to that platform. Don’t rely on a general set of tags. The meaning and following of a hashtag can be vastly different from one platform to another.
Always research hashtags! Make sure your content is relevant to what’s being shared with the tag. Also look to make sure the tag following makes it a worthwhile use of space in your post.

Include Visuals

Images are critical. Research consistently shows that more visual social posts get more shares, engagement and clicks than other online content.

When picking images, keep in mind:

  • Images with faces are powerful attention grabbers
  • Pets also draw attention
  • Original images stand out more than stock photos
  • Limit video length to be within best practices of the platform where it is being shared

Mention Others

Mentioning others in your content is powerful, especially when those mentions link to their content. People are influenced by social proof of others liking something. Search engines take these mentions as a signal of authority in a subject area.

When you mention and link to others, they are likely to respond with a comment or share. This expands the reach from your audience to theirs as well.

Get More Engagement with Online Content Best Practices

Most online posts get almost no traction, while a small percentage of posts get huge engagement. Putting more effort into following online content best practices as you create your content improves your likelihood of getting results. Fewer posts that are well created will outperform a volume of poor quality posts.