The messenger matters: why nonprofits should have authority figures on their side

Earlier this week, I wrote this post about a great TV ad Prudential did.

Einstein: a go-to authority figure
Einstein: a go-to authority figure

Did you notice who the pitch man was for the ads? You might’ve seen his name flit across the bottom of your screen. That’s Harvard Professor Dan Gilbert. He wrote Stumbling on Happiness and has done some great TED Talks.

Gilbert is The Man (aka a leading authority) on the science of decision-making and happiness and other cool, brainy stuff. Stuff like persuasion.

In Claxon University’s course Words on a Mission, students watch this video about the Science of Persuasion. There are six principles that the authors have found to be truly effective when it comes to persuading people to do things…things, like, oh let’s say donating to your nonprofit.

One of those principles is about authority. We like to hear from authority figures. It makes us feel better about our decisions. The authority is smart, therefore we will be smart if we do what they are suggesting.

The Prudential ads didn’t really play up Gilbert’s as an authority figure. And missed an opportunity to further persuade people to invest in their retirement.

Is your nonprofit missing out on a similar opportunity? Is there an authority figure in your field who could speak out on your behalf and/or validate your approach? Note that this persona might be a professor or a researcher, but someone who has walked in the shoes of the people you serve is also an authority figure.

[Bonus: Since we’re talking about videos, take a minute and watch this gem by the Rainforest Alliance. #NailedIt]