Winner of the 2021 PNP Best Book Award, sponsored by the Public and Non-Profit Division of the Academy of Management.
Today, social media offers an alternative broadcast and communication medium for nonprofit advocacy organizations. At the same time, social media ushers in a "noisy" information era that renders it more difficult for nonprofits to make their voices heard. This book seeks to unpack the prevalence, mechanisms, and ramifications of a new model for nonprofit advocacy in a social media age. The keyword for this new model is attention. Advocacy always starts with attention: when an organization speaks out on a cause, it must ensure that it has an audience and that its voice is heard by that audience; it must ensure that current and potential supporters are paying attention to what it has to say before expecting more tangible outcomes. Yet the organization must also ensure that advocacy does not end with attention: attention should serve as a springboard to something greater. The authors elaborate how attention fits into contemporary organizations' advocacy work and explain the key features of social media that are driving the quest for attention. Developing conceptual models, they explain why some organizations and messages gain attention while others do not. Lastly, the book explores how organizations are weaving together online and offline efforts to deliver strategic advocacy outcomes.
About the authors
Chao Guo is Associate Professor of Nonprofit Management in the School of Social Policy & Practice at the University of Pennsylvania.
Gregory D. Saxton is Associate Professor of Accounting in the Schulich School of Business at York University.
"In The Quest for Attention, Guo and Saxton do a compelling job of demonstrating how and why understanding the social media landscape is key to advocating effectively for important social issues and understanding the non-profit sector in general. This is a must-read for anyone trying to make sense of what distinctive challenges and opportunities the 21st century presents in terms of linking communication strategies to tangible social outcomes and impact."
—John L. Jackson, Jr., Walter H. Annenberg Dean of the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania
"Advocacy and activism have changed. Activists today know that data and social media are key elements in their fight for the rights of the poor, the dispossessed, and the downtrodden. Chao Guo and Gregory Saxton's The Quest for Attention is required reading for those who seek to understand this new world of social change."
—John McNutt, Professor, Joseph R. Biden, Jr. School of Public Policy and Administration, University of Delaware
"Chao Guo and Gregory Saxton's new book is a major step forward in our understanding of the political behavior of nonprofits. Their rigorous study documents how nonprofits use social media to draw attention to their priorities, the first step toward working to shape public policy."
—Jeffrey M. Berry, Tufts University