Thanks very much to Alison at GlobalGiving blog for her excellent comment on my Wed. post, How to Get the Attention of 9,000 people in 1 week or How to Conduct a Successful Online Marketing Campaign in 6 Easy Steps.
Specifically, Alison asked me about the X Factor.
The X Factor is a precipitating event which brings or gives RELEVANCE to your cause. She's absolutely right that having an X Factor is extremely helpful, if not imperative, in making your cause spread like fire.
In the case of Dave's story, it was Mrs. Tistadt's UNPLEASANT message which was the X Factor (precipitating event) that gave his "campaign" its hook. Without it, his "appeal," "Let them know what you think about snow days!" wouldn't have had nearly as much resonance.
As nonprofits, we're not always handed high-profile "sparks" like these. In other words, an Exxon Valdez disaster does not occur every day. What this means is that we must be CREATIVE and vigilant in our effort to see X Factors everywhere and then talk about them when telling folks about our mission and work.
Katya Andresen at Network for Good is a master at this. (She's also an ex-journalist - great training ground for finding "the hook.") Her "cause" is helping nonprofits to be smarter at marketing so that they can achieve their missions and change our world. She uses everyday events, like conversations with her children as well as timely current affairs to spread her message.
Good marketing on or offline also includes an X Factor - a current event, metaphor, story, or (if you're lucky) a VERY OBVIOUS precipitating event which helps you spread your cause. It's your job to find it!