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What Marketers Can Learn From Charity:Water CEO Scott Harrison

Charity:water logo
Scott Harrison is the founder and CEO of charity:water, a nonprofit organization that provides financial resources to local charities that drill wells and install water-filtration systems in emerging countries. Since 2007 when he started the organization, Scott has raised over 100 million dollars doing one thing: telling stories. Whether it’s a about how his organization has helped families in developing gain access to clean water or his rebellious past as a nightclub promoter, he has always connected with his audience through his stories. This is definitely a skill we as marketers have to possess. Here are three story-telling skills we can learn from Scott Harrison:
  1. Share personal stories.

    Scott often shares his stories about how he went from being a prolific nightclub promoter in The Big Apple to becoming a volunteer on a hospital ship. These stories humanize Scott by showing the drastic changes in his life and help him better connect with the audience. These stories also put Scott under the microscope and enable the rest of us to see his vulnerability and weaknesses. Ironically, instead of devaluing him, these stories actually make him more real and inspiring as the audience wants to engage with a person who is real. By understanding the effectiveness of Scott’s story-telling approach, we can begin sharing our problems that keep us up at night so that our consumers or audience will see us as human beings as opposed to salespeople. This will not only allow us to capture the audience’s attention, but also help us develop personal bonds with our consumers. 

  2. Use images.

    “A picture is worth a thousand words” - Napoleon Bonaparte. Through the presentation of photos and videos, Scott can firmly illustrate the positive impact he has done for local communities in developing countries. Whether it’s a picture of a child drinking a glass of clean water or a photo of a smiling, healthy mother of two boys, Scott always uses vivid images to support his philanthropic stories. This usage of visual content not only can vigorously draw the audience’s focus, as people like pictures more than words, but also makes his social goals much more concrete and believable. This in turn has helped Scott encourage more people to support his cause. As marketers, we can learn from this approach by using testimonial-like images in our presentations to prove that our products or services can create solutions to people’s problems

  3. Know who you’re speaking to.

    Scott has received millions in funding from tech co-founders such as Michael Birch and John Vechey. How did he do it? He tailored his value propositions. Some donors are more interested in certain initiatives that charity:water has while others may prefer other campaigns. Therefore, it’s vital for Scott to understand his audience’s preference and propose his ideas seamlessly to meet the audience’s expectations. This same approach is critical for marketers as we can’t offer our products or services unless we can prove that our products or services can create significant values to our consumers’ lives.

Story-telling is one of the most ancient, but nevertheless potent, marketing tool. With story-telling, marketers can take their audiences on an emotional, spiritual journey through vivid images and powerful words. Scott Harrison in particular has mastered this tool. (If you want evidence, watch his 2013 Inbound keynote speech where he explained his organization’s role in resolving the global water crisis while encouraging 5000 inbound marketers to support his mission.) As marketers, we can also master this craft so we can seamlessly and permanently capture our audiences’ hearts.