How ‘Why’ Is the Most Important Question You Need to Answer

Minute read
How ‘Why’ Is the Most Important Question You Need to Answer

What draws people to your cause? What motivated your supporters to take their first action? What did they feel when they first donated? Why do you exist? The answer to all these questions is the same. And it’s a source of power that few of us are tapping into as frequently as we could.

As changemakers, we live our purpose. It underpins everything. In fact, why we do what we do—or who we do it for—seems so completely self-evident that few of us think to mention it. Instead, our focus often remains fixed on the next goalpost—on the process that will secure the next critical win.

That’s not the world our supporters live in.

When our communication is process-focussed rather than purpose-focussed, we miss opportunities to refuel our supporters’ passion for our cause. Missing too many of these opportunities can lead to apathy and fatigue. In reality, process and purpose are intrinsically linked. All we need to do is remember to join the dots.

Process only:
“The poultry industry is cracking under the weight of responses to the public consultation on battery cages. We can’t let up pressure now!” (written for campaigners)

Process + purpose:
“The poultry industry is cracking under the weight of responses to the public consultation on battery cages. The fate of millions of gentle hens hangs in the balance. We can’t let up pressure now!” (written for supporters)

Rule of thumb: if your message is all about the process needed to achieve your goal, without any direct mention of those who stand to benefit from that process, try again.

‘Internal’ vs ‘external’ language

Often, it’s our job to translate internal campaign strategy into public-facing messaging. The operative word here being translate. This should be a process. What assumed knowledge does your team have that a distracted audience may be missing?

To translate ‘internal’ language to ‘external’ language, remember to articulate the unspoken problem or opportunity. This will reveal why your supporter should care about your strategy.

Internal language:

“CruelCompany™ still has inadequate animal welfare policies

“It’s time to ramp up our campaign against CruelCompany™”

“Today we’re launching a new campaign targeting CruelCompany™

External language:

“CruelCompany™ still permits extreme cruelty to animals

“It’s time to increase pressure on CruelCompany™ to end its support of animal cruelty

“Today we’re launching a campaign on behalf of animals who suffer in factory farms to supply CruelCompany™

Unlock more digital strategy secrets.

Free  eBook

Don’t be afraid to repeat yourself

The same principle applies when communicating with supporters across long-haul campaigns. It’s never safe to assume your audience is up to speed. Find creative ways to restate the problem. This ensures that readers always know why that solution you’re striving for is critical.

When we speak to purpose, we’re communicating directly with the part of the brain responsible for emotion-based decision-making—bypassing logic and even language. This moves people. Simon Sinek’s TED Talk on ‘the power of why’ explains this phenomenon in more detail. Watch it here.

Get a free weekly digital strategy tip:

Name Email
privacy policy.

We respect your data. View the privacy policy.

Unsubscribe any time. We respect your data. View the privacy policy.

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!

Like this tip? Share it!