Articulate Your ‘Theory of Change’

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Articulate Your ‘Theory of Change’

You might know definitively that your call-to-action (CTA) is the single-most strategic thing your supporters can do today to help your cause. But don’t expect anyone to take your word for it. Make the effort to spell out why. This means articulating more than an ‘ask’—it means articulating a supporter-focused theory of change. This is the story you tell your supporter that allows them to see how their action will solve a problem.

Put simply...

Don’t just tell people what to do. Tell them why. And be convincing.

Here’s an example. The two statements below are seeking to achieve the exact same result. However, the first message is less likely to inspire actions. That’s because the second message does two critical things that the first message doesn’t.

Less effective:
We urgently need you to share this important video with everyone you know!

More effective:
CruelCompany™ would rather animals suffer in silence. Will you share this and give animals a voice?

The second message names the problem, and identifies an action that will logically and directly solve that problem. What’s more—the solution is one that’s within the reader’s power to do.

Three reasons the ‘Supporter-Focused Theory of Change’ works

  1. People don’t often respond well to merely being ‘told what to do’
  2. Sharing strategic insights shows respect for your reader’s intelligence and their desire to play a meaningful role in your campaign
  3. Understanding a theory of change allows your reader to more readily comprehend the consequences of not taking action

If you can’t clearly articulate a supporter-focused theory of change, that could signal the need to circle back and consider your strategy more deeply.

Outrage » Hope » Fulfillment

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Match the solution to the problem

If you want your theory of change to hold water, it needs to make sense. Any perceived mismatch between an action and the problem it’s supposed to solve can make an ask feel lazy and inauthentic.

Here are some unconvincing examples:

“Our investigators have uncovered yet more horrific live export cruelty across the globe. Write to your MP today.” (how will this help?)

“The dairy industry has secured the legal right to starve slaughter-bound calves for the last 30 hours of their lives. So we’ve started a petition to stop them.” (unrealistic)

“Animals in factory farms are suffering right now. Please donate so we can help them.” (vague)

Making the effort to step out a clear theory of change will foster stronger engagement and conversion rates. But failing to articulate a theory of change is a fast way to disengage your audience. Keep it simple. Omit the bureaucratic, legal, process, or political details if you can. Focus on narrative. Highlight any urgency. Turn your supporter into a hero. And ensure your CTA is fit for purpose.

From: How to write CTAs like a boss

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Karen Nilsen

Hi there! I’m Karen. I’m on a mission to reach my former self. Had I known 10 years ago what I know today, I could have achieved more good, made fewer mistakes, and had more weekends. Every time we share what works, we win faster. Let’s create digital experiences that move people — that grow our base and fuel our movements. Are you with me? Please share this with someone you know who wants to up their digital game!

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