The following is a guest post from Network for Good's Chief Strategy Officer, Katya Andresen. The article originally appeared on Katya's Nonprofit Marketing Blog.
A new iPhone app from Liz Claiborne Inc.’s Love is Not Abuse campaign, takes an unusual approach to putting parents in the shoes of their teenage children — texting, emailing and calling them from a pretend “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” so they can experience the kinds of bullying and harassment that take place these days. The goal of the app (available here) is to raise awareness of the way technology can contribute to the controlling nature of a negative teen relationship—something a quarter of teens say they’ve experienced.
Full disclosure: I know the good people behind this campaign. I think the cause is very important, and so I wanted to comment on two things that are critical with this any other campaign that creates discomfort in an effort to compel people to act.
1.) It’s important the experience is not so negative it causes people to shut down and want to avoid the issue altogether. This is the primary danger of scaring people. We downloaded the app in my office and were relieved when it wasn’t overly creepy or scary or sensationalistic - though it was unsettling to be bombarded with queries about our whereabouts, etc. And it made me concerned about better preparing my pre-teen for the signs when constant teen online chatter had crossed the line into bullying or harassment.
2.) It’s important that people have a clear and simple way to act to prevent the negative situation presented. This is critical! You never want to generate fear and worry in an audience - and then have no easy way for them to act to change things. This app provides tips for talking to your teen, resources for schools and other materials. Once the parent is worried, you want to prepare them to address it in their own family and community. The app seeks to do that.
What do you think? Here are some reactions via Mashable.
I think this is the bottom line: Whatever your issue, tread carefully in the tone of your messaging. Never frighten people with gloom, doom and hopelessness—empower them with ways to make a difference. Make sure you don’t stop at awareness but always inspire action.