“Send your butt to a friend… It could save some someone’s life.”

With this opening line, the Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada has transformed the way people get information about colon cancer. http://www.getyourbuttseen.ca takes you step by step through photocopying your bum (or creating a mock-up), giving facts and encouraging health screenings along the way. The site brilliantly makes people laugh while they are soaking up public health advice. It delivers a high rate of return for your investment of attention.

Last year, we wrote that time is the new money, and that low-cost social media has changed the barrier to engaging with your audience from dollars to effort. In the same vein, return on attention is the new return on investment. A successful communications campaign is one that creates an interactive connection between your work and your audience, a connection that leads to more volunteering, more re-tweets, and more donations.

This approach is the forefront of new communications. With a barrage of status updates, online petitions and emails, we are flooded with messages about the issues we care about. The information that gets through is the information we receive while being engaged and entertained. (Hence the quick scan-and-delete of text-heavy e-newsletters I was forced to do after spending fifteen minutes emailing photocopied rears and learning about colon cancer.)

So how do you ensure that you make the most meaningful impact of the few seconds you have someone’s attention? Hook on to something fun, unusual, and engaging.

Similarly, the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees recently recognized World Refugee Day by releasing a mobile video game that takes you into the life of a refugee through a game that poses difficult questions about how to get you and your family to safety. Do you stay or flee? Do you search for your daughter or make sure your son gets to safety? Through the game, you develop empathy, realize “nobody chooses to be a refugee” and get an opportunity to make a donation. Increasingly, resource development will hinge on treating peoples’ engagement with the same careful stewardship as their donor dollars.

In today’s social media world, breaking through the crowd requires getting your audience to interact with your message in a positive way. Get creative and consider how your organization can use games, interactive websites and downright fun to “get your butt seen.”

(Image courtesy flickr user Stephen Poff)

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Holly Minch is LightBox Collaborative’s chief engineer and founder and hopes your cause receives the attention it deserves.