BC tip: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation - answering tough questions

A blog-format annual letter is used to tackle contentious issues head on in a detailed yet visually and editorially engaging way. 

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The Feature

On 13th February 2018, Bill and Melinda Gates’ private charity foundation posted its tenth annual letter on Bill Gates’ blog. The post was prominently signposted on the Bill & Melinda Foundation’s home page.

The post consists of both Bill and Melinda Gates’ seemingly verbatim answers to ‘10 tough questions that people ask us’.

Each question is headed by an animated cartoon illustrating the theme of the question (see screenshot above).

The detailed text answers are interspersed with charts, captioned images and embedded YouTube videos illustrating the foundation’s work and the topic in question.

‘Hand-written’ additions to the typed answers are included in the ‘margins’ of the blog post (again, see screenshot above).

The Takeaway

The Bill & Melinda Foundation’s blog-format annual letter offers a useful lesson for corporate web managers: that contentious issues can be effectively addressed directly online in ways that can be both detailed and engaging.

For example, the letter’s use of video, animation and photography helps to convey complex information clearly and entertainingly – while the ‘hand written’ comments in the margins convey a personal touch that is often absent from large organizations’ social responsibility communications. Perhaps most importantly, the Gates’ detailed answers to the ten questions are written in a clear, jargon-free style, which is likely to be appreciated by both generalist and specialist readers alike.


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