“Barrie, if you can’t sum up your idea in less than 7 seconds then you don’t have an idea.”
That was something an old radio boss of mine said to me many years ago when we were in the throes of a passionate debate on whether an idea I had come up with would work – radio was the industry I worked in before I started in the charity sector – he said it wouldn’t because it was too complicated. I was arguing it would work because it was so creative.
He ended up giving me the benefit of the doubt. “Okay, let’s go with it. Let’s see if it will work.” I thought I had won the argument. What I would later realise was he was going to prove his point in the most illuminating way anyone can.
Why did he say 7 seconds? His philosophy was that you have to think of human beings like goldfish. Now, you could argue that is a slight dumbing down of people by thinking that they can’t hold attention for longer than 7 seconds. But I have found since that he was right. If you can’t sum up what you want people to do in less than 7 seconds then “you don’t have an idea.” I would argue that, with the advent of social media, 7 seconds is perhaps even a bit too long now.
What makes a truly great idea? Well, since those early days of my career I have learned that a great idea contains the following four elements.
Simplicity – You immediately get it. You understand what it is and you know what you have to do to be part of it.
Audience participation – The ability to take the idea and grow it in a way which relates to them so they can put their own stamp on it.
Impact – Measurable outcomes. You can see the fruits of your labour.
Legacy – It is remembered.
For me, that is why Donate Your Homepage is such a successful digital campaign for St Basils. It is simple. “Donate your website homepage to St Basils on world homelessness day so they can raise awareness of their work.” (Notice how long it took to read that. Less than 7 seconds). Companies can take the idea and run with it. They donate their page but can then promote it through their social pages to highlight what they are doing – this is a nice bit of PR for them which they don’t have to do a great deal of work to get.
It has a positive impact for St Basils in that it drives audience to our website, but also has an impact for the businesses taking part – again, it shows they are doing their bit to raise awareness of the issues St Basils are tackling. And, it is remembered. Companies who didn’t take part that year want to get involved the following year. And those who did keep coming back to do it again.
We saw a huge result from this campaign and I wanted to pull out a couple of headlines for you, which I’ll be talking about in greater detail during my session at the Digital Fundraising Conference next week. Last year, on the day the campaign ran we saw an increase of 327% traffic to our website.
Businesses such as the Birmingham mail and Warwickshire Cricket club took part – which gave the campaign more weight due to the scale of those businesses. From a charity prospective, in 2019 we ran a specific fundraising ask. Our ask from the audience changes each year depending on what we are pushing. We asked potential supporters to donate £5 to us. On that day our fundraising was up 223% year on year. Quite a return from something so simple.
Oh, and to get back to the point I made at the beginning of this blog? He was right, my idea didn’t work. It was too complicated, no one knew what they had to do so they didn’t do anything with it, it didn’t have any impact and, truth be told, I can’t actually remember what the idea was now!