Here is what the great corporate minds of America know: If you speak to an audience's values (not your own), that audience will listen. Savvy nonprofit marketers take that approach. The oft-cited Don't Mess With Texas is an anti-littering campaign that became an unofficial state motto by tapping into the macho and fiercely prideful ethos of the young men who had a tendency to toss their trash out of their truck windows. It's as if the campaign had stolen the approach here and said, "Hey, if that works for Guns and Ammo, let's make it work for us!" And they would be right on. "Give a hoot, don't pollute" would never work in the Lone Star state.
Identify your target audience and then check out all the advertisers trying to influence that audience. The best companies behind those ads spent a lot of money on research to figure out what makes their audience tick, and their ads speak to the audience values they uncovered. So take those ads - from websites, magazines and TV (make notes) and plaster them on your office wall. What are they speaking to? How can you tie your cause to that sensibility? If you make that connection, you just stole a lot of very valuable intelligence.
My favorite web site these days is http://www.care.org/, because CARE has the Nike ethos nailed.
Ads are like one big focus group out there for you to commandeer. Just do it.
Photo: screen shot of http://www.care.org/.