Ira Glass, UX Rockstar

By | September 15, 2009

I listen to NPR (National Public Radio) every morning.  I have been a consistent paying member for years.  Every few months, they have a pledge week where they try and get listeners to donate money to support the radio network.  They try all kinds of techniques to increase effectiveness:  Dollar-for-dollar matching, free gifts, prizes, donate to food banks, guilt, begging, cajoling, etc.

However, it was not until this pledge drive that they got an authentic UX Rockstar to help them.  His name is Ira Glass.  I have been a huge fan of his since I heard his pieces on This American Life regarding the financial mess we have been in.  Listen to some of those pieces, they are brilliant.

Ira takes a totally different approach to fund raising.  Some of them are simple.  He uses a soundtrack behind his voice with subtle music.  The music accentuates what he is saying and makes it more important.  Another technique is to tell stories, not ask for money.  Stories stick.  He appeals to emotions, not to logic.

For example:  In one piece he asked if your pledge, one individual’s pledge matters in the grand scheme of things.  It’s not like Renee Montagne will go homeless or something if you don’t pledge.  His answer:  No, your pledge doesn’t matter.  Logically, someone else will foot the bill.  However, he pondered, should that be the deciding factor?  Do you pledge because otherwise the radio station will go bankrupt?  Or do you pledge because its the right thing to do.  You enjoy the shows.  You listen all the time.  What kind of person would leech off their neighbors?  It’s like stealing books from the public library.

Ira turned the question on it’s head.  He made the question of donating about one’s identity, not their pocket books.  What kind of person would give to NPR?  What kind of person would listen to NPR and not give?  What kind of person are you?

Of course, this wouldn’t work with everyone, but it’s perfectly suited to the NPR audience who styles themselves as informed and generous.

This is a perfect example of how to tailor your message and think out of the box to create positive outcomes.  Great UX Design Ira.

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