Slogans that work best (and what to avoid)

A look at the approaches of two charities—one national, the other local—shows how a generic slogan will elicit shrugs and yawns from what might otherwise be an energized audience.

What gives an organization’s message impact? An effective message directly addresses what the audience cares about. That should be obvious, you say, but apparently not every organization gets it right.

Too often, they think their message is what they do, when it should be why they do it. Emphasizing the why provides an emotional connection with the audience.

An example can be demonstrated with the comparison of two charitable groups—United Way Worldwide (the headquarters) and United Way of Greater St. Louis, for which I have volunteered for the past decade.

In comparing the banners, i.e., the main message, on the home page of their respective websites, there is a distinct difference. In my opinion, the St. Louis chapter presents a more effective audience-based message in its banner.

The message for the St. Louis chapter is simply, “Helping People.”

That message appears on every webpage, and is even supported by its URL: “”

What makes this so effective is that it succinctly states why people give to the United Way—to help people live better lives. It’s simple, yet effective and personal. It is why they do what they do and what people care about.

Contrast that with the national organization, which has as its main message “Live United.”

I am not sure what that means or why I should care. It seems this main message is centered upon the organization, as opposed to the good they do.

The website at “” says we should “Give, Advocate and Volunteer” in a large font. Why? What value to a reader does that have?

The answer to what value it has might lie in the smaller copy on the site. There you will find the benefit of helping people. It is those sections that motivate readers, rather than “Live United.”

In other words, don’t tell me “what you do”; rather, tell me “why you do it.” This is how organizations such as the United Way can reach people emotionally and can more effectively achieve their mission.

Tripp Frohlichstein is the founder of MediaMasters. His firm specializes in media and presentation coaching, along with message development and message mapping. Contact him at or email

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Topics: PR

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