Monday, June 27, 2005

Increasing visibility without advertising dollars

Last week I did a mind map showing all of the stories in the Chicago Tribune that illustrated how poverty leads to poor school performance, to at-risk behavior and to a greater percent of minority youth going to jail rather than college. I found 18 stories that I could connect as either illustrating the problem or a potential solution.

This week I tried the same thing, but other than a couple of small reports on street violence (a shooting in Chicago that kills two gets less attention than a shooting in Iraq that kills two. Why?), I could not find any.

Yet, during the week there was a full page story about the deplorable conditions of bathrooms in some innercity Chicago schools, which certainly contributes to a lack of focus on learning. The Tribune did not even print the report on segregation released by the Chicago Urban League. The competing Chicago SunTimes devoted 2/3 of a page to this. Of course there also were stories about the Leave No Child Behind tutoring programs.

What this illustrates is a lack of media strategy to use this resource to provide more consistent attention to issues of poverty. We don't see Sears/K-Mart or other retailers in and out of the Sunday paper every week. They know that if they don't keep telling potential customers that they have the products and services people want, when they want them, and at a convenient location, customers will shop some place else when they are looking for these goods or services.

Tutor/Mentor programs and other non profits serving youth in poverty have the same need for weekly advertising that tells what the problem is, and ways cutomers (donors, volunteers, leaders, etc.) can find a way to help at a convenient location.

It might take a stretch to define "convenient" since the poverty neighborhoods of Chicago are so large. However if we can get a potential donor or volunteer to look at a map, many can see that the work in the downtown area but live in the South, West or North suburbs. The train routes go right through the poverty neighborhoods. So do the expressways. That means that if people were to car pool they could meet downtown after work and drive to a tutor/mentor location near an expressway to tutor or mentor before going the rest of the way home.

Or, a company might use T/MC maps to see that they have many business locations in inner city neighborhoods. This could lead to a strategy of providing philanthropy near where a company does business, not just in a few high profile places.

Unless we can increase the number of times we put our call to involvement in front of the public, and our ability to do this more consistently, all of the money that does go into public awareness will not be doing enough.

Our solution is connecting our message delivery with other non profits and with businesses, faith networks and media, and using the Internet to expand the reach and frequency of our message delivery. However, it would be great to see some consistency from media, even if only on web sites, so that every day the news leads people from bad things into a path that leads to good things.

Visit the web links at the left to learn how we're doing this and ways you might get involved.


DimensionIndia said...
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