9 comments on “This is Not an April Fool’s Post

  1. Why would anyone think you’re “mean-spirited?” You’ve quoted the NGO’s note, which is interesting in itself, but you’ve completely protected it by keeping the NGO anonymous, weakening the impact of your post.

    • I guess mean-spirited in that it’s obvious that the person writing the brief does not have English as their first language, which undoubtedly means that they lack the language skills to nuance their intentions, probably making the script read a lot blunter than a native English speaker with the same perspective might make it. It serves the purpose though.

    • Thanks Ben. I’m not going to comment either way which kind of agency this is. But I guess reflecting on your assertion, I agree- there are big agencies out there who really know there stuff and would never let this fly- but which also have the flawed/human element in that there are ignorant people making decisions they shouldn’t make. By the same token there are smaller operators who simply don’t know any better and exhibit this sort of attitude. But also some very smooth, very clued-in smaller agencies who get it and would be horrified by this sort of behaviour. And I- like yourself, i have no doubt- have seen examples of all of the above.

      What I can say is that to a person and without reservation, every single experienced NGO comms person (indeed any experienced NGO person) who has reacted to this post has reacted with horror: This would never get past the bulk of professional NGO media teams. And at the same time, I have had a number- and I mean quite a number- of people, all from different agencies, write to me privately about this post saying “please tell me this isn’t from our agency”. Which tells me that although no professional aid agency is going to allow this sort of thing to pass officially, they all know that a) this was the way things USED to be done, and b) there are still enough ignorant people floating around the sector that they know it’s possible that it might slip out.

      This post has generated a lot of traffic and a bit of conversation too. What I’m glad to see is that the commentary has been extremely positive, in that it has been a universal rejection of the values and approach that the above-mentioned brief espouses. That tells me that the sector, and public opinion as a whole, has really moved a long way from this sensationalist, soulless approach to media and fundraising. This is a good and encouraging thing.

  2. Pingback: Using Photographs of Human Suffering In Order to Encourage Charitable Giving

  3. Wow, this is just unbelievable – and seems to happen still so often. Some time ago I came across a charity website advertising child sponsorships with pictures of children from [an African country] with full names (!) and their HIV status (!!). This made me very uncomfortable and I am glad you wrote this post. Shows that we need much more of this in order to raise awareness of how communications should be done and how important it is to always put anyones dignity at first.

  4. Your Post Claire Grauer reminded me of the case of Samahope that generated some outcry in the blogosphere a little while ago. http://www.wrongingrights.com/2012/09/pointcounterpoint-on-samahope-our-two-cents.html

    The need for this misery pornography is sad, but will continue as long as it generates effective money. If people refuse to donate to charities that exploit suffering and portray the victims without the rest of dignity this will soon stop. We need a change in attitude one a societal scale!

    • In response to ‘hearabouts’ reaction, I would strongly advise against your advice on boycotting agencies if they use so called “misery pornography”. I agree that this type of media portrayal can be misleading and creates a sense of distance and pity, however to encourage people not to donate to these charities is not the right way to deal with it.
      The marketing directors of these NGOs have been using these shock tactics for years in fundraising in order to generate the most revenue for the charity. This type of top down approach to coverage by both NGOs and the media is dated and takes out the human dignity factor and indeed the realities of what is going on on the ground. Unfortunately the majority of people in western societies need this shock factor in order for them to perk up and listen and make a donation. It is the way our minds have been conditioned.
      Encouraging people to stop donating to these charities is not the way forward. A more truthfull and human element needs to be incorporated in media and fundraising campaigns. But that issue of the media not representing a true picture goes well beyond the boundaries of humanitarian examples.

      So please keep donating people, but do so with respect and dignity of those you are helping.

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