“Social change communications is about changing the rules,” said Prichard, whose firm provides services to a number of non-profit organizations such as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. He discussed the ways his field has evolved since the 1960s and ’70s, when social agencies devoted scant resources toward spreading their messages. Today, many of the same techniques developed for the commercial market are used to help non-profit organizations. “It’s Marketing 101,” said Prichard, “whether you’re trying to change a social policy or trying to make a sale.”
Though the challenges posed by the digital revolution have been hard on mainstream news outlets, Prichard sees great opportunities for organizations to advertise themselves. “There are no more gatekeepers,” he said, a term referring to the barriers that existed when the number of media outlets was more limited. With numerous social media platforms to choose from, organizations can afford to market themselves more broadly than ever before, while reaching target audiences more effectively.
But it isn’t enough to simply throw facts and figures at one’s audience and expect financial and political support. People respond to stories. “When we tell the stories of the people we serve, it helps us make a powerful emotional connection with others,” he said. Therein lie the career opportunities for storytellers and marketing experts.
As an example of this kind of storytelling, Prichard cited his own firm’s work for a program called Reclaiming Futures.
Looking ahead, Prichard sees great potential for those in communications who wish to work for important causes. “You don’t have to change the world for your work to have meaning,” he said, “but it’s exciting that there are opportunities if that’s what you want to do.”