“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.”
So says the 14th Dalai Lama. And if it’s good enough for him it’s certainly good enough for me.
I like the word “kind” because its synonym, “nice,” has taken on a pejorative flavor in some circles. Nice is sort of like the consolation prize adjective, what you get labeled if you’re not brilliant or creative or good-looking or funny.
But “kind” still packs a wallop. It connotes a deliberate use of one’s personal power to reduce the suffering or increase the happiness of another being. But let’s face it, we don’t live in a world where kindness is reinforced. So while kindness is, in the Dalai Lama’s words “simple,” it is not always easy.
What, you must be wondering, does this have to do with fundraising, marketing or communications. The answer is, maybe everything.
Let’s face it, those of us in the persuasion business are rarely rewarded for making a donor/customer/activist happy. We’re rewarded when we get them to do what we or the client wants them to do. That can give rise to quite a bit of cynicism about the malleability of the human mind. Behavioral economics is the science that underlies all this, but the behavioral economists all warn that the tools they have uncovered can be used for good or evil. That part is up to you and me.
Sara Wachter-Boettcher has a remarkable and quite provocative piece in the Content Marketing Institute blog on the benefits and strategies for infusing content with kindness.
So far this may be my biggest must-read of the year.
Enter Wachter-Boettcher’s notion of “compassionate content.”
One of her most interesting – and most thought-provoking – ideas is that when we communicate to the “typical” or “average” donor/customer/activist, we lose an important opportunity to touch people, including average people, much more deeply:
“But when we instead write specifically for people whose identities and situations aren’t average – for people who’ve just lost a job, who are dealing with a chronic illness, or who need to stay safe from a violent ex – we can actually create experiences that work better for everyone.”
Wachter-Boettcher goes on to detail a strategy for creating compassionate content.
I don’t know about you but I’m sold.