I love Edinburgh during the summer festivals, really I do. I love that for four weeks every year, the city swarms with wide-eyed tourists armed with maps, guides, reviews and flyers. I love that on every corner there are artists and artistes - often in elaborate costumes and sporting outlandish face paints - shouting, posing, singing, chanting. I love that for this brief period of summer madness the streets and squares are full of pop-up bars, foldaway theatre venues and impromptu music spaces. Indeed - what is not to love?!
The Real Edinburgh I see every morning in August when I cross the Royal Mile at about 8.30am, en route to my city centre office. At this time, tourists are at best tucking into their fried breakfasts, and performers are still sleeping off the excitement of the night before. A recycling lorry rattles down the otherwise deserted High Street, leaving a trail of trampled flyers in its wake. A scattering of fellow commuters - clad in trainers with high heels in a bag - moves undisturbed along the empty pavements. Rubbish bags and empty beer kegs are piled up outside the pubs, a faint odour of stale ale permeating the otherwise fresh morning breeze. It is quiet.
Not so shiny perhaps, or exhilarating. But certainly real - and reassuringly uplifting.
Think of this then in the context of supporters to your organisation or cause. What do you think they want to see? The shiny stuff? Or the real stuff?
Do they want the swanky drinks reception in a beautiful but anonymous setting, or would they prefer a coffee from a comedy mug in your office, with a bunch of enthusiastic volunteers? Do you show them the glossy laminated brochure, or the draft case for support on your PC? The corporate annual review or the slightly amateurish newsletter that speaks from the heart of your organisation?
There is probably a time and a place for all of the above. But tempting though it is to try and impress, we should also remember what it is that probably motivates our supporter above all else - the opportunity to be a part of our organisation. So keep it real.