Matthew Strawn, Chief Executive Officer, Iowa Lottery

Matthew Strawn, Chief Executive Officer, Iowa Lottery

Going Beyond Proceeds to Communicate Your Values

Stay Home. 

Those two simple words appeared on television, smartphone, and computer screens throughout Iowa in April and represented a first in the 35-year history of the Iowa Lottery.  It was a statewide media campaign not designed to feature lottery products, introduce a new promotion, or even highlight beneficiaries of lottery proceeds, but instead, featured a call to action encouraging Iowa citizens – our players – to stay home. 

During the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency, whether an Iowan was sheltering-in-place at home by watching broadcast, cable or connected television, streaming audio while working in the backyard, or scrolling through their social media feeds, the message from their state’s lottery was the same: Stay Safe. Stay Aware. Stay Home.

 It was a message unlike any previously delivered by the Iowa Lottery, especially considering the only manner in which one can purchase an Iowa Lottery product is by explicitly leaving the home.  But the lottery’s message also went further, pairing the safety emphasis of life today with a “Thank You” to those Iowans unable to stay at home. A scrolling on-screen list thanked nurses, doctors, grocery store workers, truckers, cleaning crews, delivery drivers and other Iowans on the frontlines of keeping us healthy and safe during the public health emergency.

 

 The lottery’s campaign, which began in mid-April and continued for the next two weeks, succeeded in delivering a timely and relevant message to Iowans, but that is not all it accomplished.  It also succeeded in communicating the values of the Iowa Lottery to those it serves.

 Before going any further, it is important to distinguish and understand the difference between values and purpose.  Too often purpose-based communication fails to tell the whole story. It only communicates the function of what we do as lotteries, not why we do it. 

 For example, the purpose of the Iowa Lottery is to responsibly generate revenue for important state causes as designated by the Iowa Legislature and governor. In Iowa, one such cause is the Iowa Veterans Trust Fund, and like most lotteries, the Iowa Lottery regularly communicates about its help for veterans through campaigns educating Iowans of the lottery’s purpose and beneficiaries.   

But communicating your values extends beyond explaining that function, or purpose.

 Again, using the Iowa Lottery as an example, a core value of our organization is service, specifically serving Iowans.  We are not “a” lottery or “the” lottery, we are the “Iowa” Lottery. From the moment the sun rises in the morning, until our heads hit the pillow at night, we serve Iowans.  That sense of service is in the DNA of the Iowa Lottery and its people, and is exactly the core organizational value that is critical to communicate to Iowa citizens, our stakeholders, and our players.  

Why is communicating your values critical? Simply put, those we serve tell us it is critical. An organization’s values increasingly matter to the very consumers who are central to a lottery’s purpose – generating revenue for important state causes. 

One recent study showed 77 percent of U.S. consumers feel more emotionally-connected to organizations driven by a purpose and values. Another noted it is not just millennials calling for values-driven companies, but that over half of the Gen X demographic actively considers company values when making a purchase. Yet another survey found 63 percent of global consumers are buying goods from companies that reflect their values.

 If we are to meet our purpose as lotteries, we must communicate our values.

 Encouraging Iowans to Stay Home during the ongoing public health crisis, and doing so with a multi-platform statewide media campaign, did just that.  It communicated to Iowans that a core value of the lottery was keeping them informed and safe, and that the lottery’s service to our State extends far beyond only those who benefit from lottery proceeds.