What charity communications can learn from the Boss

I’ve always felt a bit queasy about charities whose press releases or marketing materials talk very prominently about their own achievements.

Springsteen: “Play and shut up”

Obviously, there’s a balance to be struck and there’s no point in hiding lights under bushels, but I’ve tended to shy away from using adjectives like “biggest”, “leading” or “first” to describe the organisation I work for.

I’ve never thought much about the reason this, other than the obvious point that your reputation is what other people say about you and not what you say about yourself.

But I recently came across a line in Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography that made me think about it again.

He describes his reaction when, appearing in the UK for the first time, he was mortified to find the venue covered with gushing promotional material about how great he was:

“This is not the way it works. I know how it works. I’ve done it. Play and shut up. My business is SHOW business and that is the business of SHOWING… not TELLING. You don’t TELL people anything, you SHOW them, and let them decide.”

It’s a really good point, and one that is worth remembering. And while managing a charity’s brand and reputation is complicated, “show them, and let them decide” is a pretty starting point.

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