An ingenious feel-good story


The articles I post the Thursday before Christmas every year is my favorite one to write. Because our hearts tend to be more open to messages of deeper meaning than how to earn more media placements.

But today’s is the best of both worlds. Tuesday I witnessed something inspirational. And there’s a great PR lesson in it, too!

My wife and I were walking in downtown Salt Lake City, and we came across the most unusual vending machines you’ve ever seen. You put in your credit card, and then you punch in the number of your “item.” But instead of getting a soda or a snack, you bought an eye exam for an underprivileged child. Or soccer balls for kids in a refugee camp. Or a goat for a single mom outside Syria.

They have these “giving machines” in Manhattan and London and Manila, too, as detailed in the London Daily Mail.

It’s part of a giving campaign by my church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and its charitable partners.

Pretty cool idea, huh? And it incorporates two frameworks that you can learn from to draw attention to your favorite causes.

The challenge here is that pretty much everyone thinks it’s good to donate to charity, and most people do, and this time of year there is a ton of competition around that message. So how did this campaign stand out?

– Contrarian imagery. They took a practice that’s synonymous with superficial “taking” – grabbing something from the vending machine – and flipped it to meaningful giving.

– Changed the “process” to create novelty. The typical charity story focuses on outcomes – “Your donation will go to help these people . . .” So this one shakes things up by focusing on the methodology of your donation.

There’s one more thing I love about this campaign. It highlights the positive influence of expertise in public relations. When you hone your craft honorably, you are exercising your power to prompt others to do good in the world.

And that’s why I take it as a great honor that you’ve chosen to read these posts this year. My warmest wishes to you and yours for a wonderful holiday.

P.S. If you’re in the mood for more holiday-tinged messages, last year I wrote about defeating inner demons holding us back. The year before that was refuting what the business media and success literature say about how to treat people.

This article was originally published on Dec 20, 2018.