Michelle Wolf’s rant was no accident

The White House Correspondents Dinner was created as a truce between the White House and the White House press corp.  Every day, the two go at each other, with reporters asking biting questions and the White House spokesperson offering often deflecting answers.  But there is one evening a year — the dinner — when the two sides are supposed to sit down together and call a truce.

However, the dinner that just happened, with host Michelle Wolf, was quite the opposite.  Whether her routine was cleaver or not, funny or mean, serious or lighthearted, is not the point of this essay.  Her objective was not to host the event.  Her objective was to be talked about and further her career.

In today’s world of social media and cable news shows, there is a lot of time and space to fill.  Gone are the days when news programs told us what we needed to know.  Today, they have hours and hours to fill and computers to clog.

That’s why if someone wants to be talked about, and hence grow their fan base, then the best way to do that is to be outrageous.  If someone in the public eye is outrageous, over-the-top and crosses the line, then some people will get angry. Others will defend her/him.  In either event, that person becomes the focal point of discussion, whether you agree with them or not.

That was Wolf’s mission.  As a participant on The Daily Show, she isn’t exactly a household name.  But the day after the dinner, she was headline news.  Now more people know her name and more will follow her on Twitter and more might see her comedy shows.

Once gaining notoriety was done by making constructive contributions to the public discourse, being intellectual or cleaver.  Today it is simply just being outrageous.  It is career death to be bland.  Nobody will take notice of you.  You might say things that are truthful, insightful, brilliant, but nobody will care.  On the other hand, say things that make people gasp, blush, or moan in anguish, and you now have put yourself on the map, regardless of who you may have wrongfully attacked, embarrassed or hurt.  All that matters is your career.

For those who think that Wolf’s “jokes” were just jokes, think again.  It was a calculated PR move by someone who understands that marketing a career starts with getting attention.

And hats off to her.  She succeeded.


Why Nonprofit Marketing Matters

Just recently, I met someone at a gathering who told me that “nonprofits should not market or do public relations.”  Being in the business, I asked why? Their answer was straight and simple.  “Because if they do good work, everybody will know, and if they are worthy of support, they will receive it.”

I found this answer interesting yet curious.  If this is the case, they why does any product advertise?  Why does McDonald’s spent hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising if they offer a product people want and virtually everybody knows about?

Why should any company market itself?  The old adage, “if you build it, they will come,” seems logical.  But is it true?

The comment from this individual wasn’t about marketing in general, but nonprofit marketing.  Somehow this person (I am purposely avoiding mentioning where it is a he or she) believe that nonprofits exist to serve the public and that should be enough.  They should not spend money on marketing because that money should go to their work.  I guess in that case, nonprofits should not have paid CEOs because they will run themselves.

Unfortunately, the reality is much different.  Nonprofits that rely on funding without asking for it, often find themselves left behind.  Study after study has backed this up.  Research shows that the number one reason people give money to a particular charity is simply because someone asked them.

Yes, some philanthropists has passions and seek out organizations that do that work.  But few do Google searches for a nonprofit and then write a million dollar check because they life their website.

Marketing strategy drives fundraising and fundraising propels nonprofits.  So to say doing good will attract funding alone, is rather naieve.

Also, we must consider just how many nonprofits do similar work.  How many charities exist to combat cancer?  How many to solve homelessness?  On and on.  There are very few unique charities, and those that are unique are very niche and have small followings.  So nonprofits operate in competitive environments and need strategic marketing and PR – public relations — so they can raise the funds they need to do the job they need to do.

Marketing isn’t everything.  Much goes into running a successful nonprofit, but while it is often easy to try to do without, if often becomes evident that it is the most critical function that enables an organization to thrive.