June 25, 2014
by randi
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How to get your people on board

When I was a little girl, my favourite story was “The Little Engine That Could.” I would beg my mom to read it to me over and over again. I was captivated by the idea that believing in your abilities would help you transcend obstacles that others viewed as impossible. Climbing big mountains with a small engine is tough going, and it’s easy to feel discouraged. Good leaders know this, and thThe_Little_Engine_That_Couldey know how to help the people around them climb aboard – even when the destination isn’t clear.

I feel compelled to share leadership stories right now for two reasons: because it is dramatically absent in current provincial politics (no need to elaborate), and because it is widely evident in local and regional politics. I’m a big fan of civic engagement, I like to feel like my leaders are interested in my ideas. And while I believe that talking about your concerns with leaders does influence the outcome, I’m still waiting for a reply to my April letter (did you write one?)

Good leaders are motivated by their quest for shared abundance, and they view contributions from others as beneficial. Effective leaders are curious about the people they are leading, they are driven to understand their needs and to build a shared identity. Poor leaders are stuck in Maslov’s basement, positioning to win their point and competing for limited resources. They’re not much fun to work with. If you know someone like that, keep reading.

Since storytelling is the best way to share information, here are two elegant examples of effective leadership from people I’m privileged to work with right now:

  • Squamish Lillooet Regional District: the project managers took an expansive view to motivating people across 16,310 square kilometres to reduce their garbage. They could have imposed by-laws on their member municipalities, requiring them to reach waste reduction targets they developed behind closed doors. Instead, they embarked on a 12 month committee process to identify shared goals and shared resources. Being inclusive from the very beginning ensures that everyone is on board and feels connected to the success of the project. People laugh during meetings, a good sign that positive relationships are being forged.
  • Resort Municipality of Whistler: the small town that invites the world to play is committed to reducing its community greenhouse gas emissions. Project managers could have developed brochures, and then complained six months later when nothing changed. Instead, they invested time to understand needs of their community so that the resources they develop actually remove barriers and motivate action. People in the community volunteer their time to help, a good sign that they feel valued.

If you are a small engine and your challenge feels like a massive mountain to climb, try sharing the load. There are tremendous resources available to you (hint: they are often found in the people you are trying to influence). The Little Engine That Could believed in herself because of her small size, not in spite of it. Be nimble. Be bold. Above all, try something different if you’re unsatisfied with the results you’ve been getting from your commander-in-chief approach to leadership.

Not sure where to start? Give me a call for a complementary needs assessment.

April 13, 2014
by randi
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Earth Day: your one-hour action plan

April is the month where we collectively reflect on the state of the environment. In three simple steps that will take less than an hour, you can make that reflection purposeful.
Here’s how:

1. Identify a leader at any level of government who you would like to influence.

2. Choose one burning issue that is not being addressed the way that you want it to be.

3. Share your concern in a positive and personal way, and provide plausible alternatives.

I hate to admit it, but I’m not politically astute. Though I vote in every election, I rarely consider myself adequately informed. This is something I’m not proud of, and I know that being more engaged in policy discourse is important. Somehow it always seems that other duties in my life are prioritized over current political affairs.

Then I got my tax bill, and all of a sudden, I’m more motivated to know what’s happening with my hard-earned money. When I started to consider this, it became clear that many current government decisions do not align very much with my values. I bet you can relate.

This month commit to one letter. Keep a notebook on your kitchen counter for a few days and find 10 minute periods to consider and record your thoughts on an issue that matters deeply to you.

making my values count: find out how

Here are just a few places where you can dedicate some purposeful reflection into your daily routine:

  • Doing dishes/folding laundry
  • Commuting to/from work
  • Running
  • Sitting in a pointless meeting
  • Waiting in line
  • Finishing your taxes

Hot tips when you’re ready to bring it all together:

  • Write the letter in your own words
  • Keep it short – focus on a single issue
  • Be polite and keep a positive tone
  • Include supporting facts and details
  • Make your message personal
  • Suggest specific actions and ask for a reply

Anybody can call the Prime Minister! Or call any other leader, for that matter. Elected officials (those people paid with your hard-earned taxes) pay attention to public feedback – especially written letters. The more they hear about an issue, the more they believe they need to make it a priority. Plus, writing a letter feels so satisfying, once you try it, you’ll wonder why you waited so long to start.

 

March 6, 2014
by randi
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Breaking the Brochure Habit

We are what we do repeatedly; excellence is a habit.  Aristotle

Do you brush your teeth every morning? Sure you do, and I bet you don’t have to remember to do it, either. At some point in your development, the behaviour tipped from being reflective (“what’s that thing I have to do again after breakfast? Oh yeah…”) to automatic.

Shifting from reflective to automatic thinking is the secret to excellence.

Not all behaviours make this leap, not even the ones that we want. We need a special combination of awareness, motivation and know-how for it to happen. But you know what we don’t need? Brochures.

It doesn’t matter how flashy they are, new behaviours are not created through the repetition of catchy messages. Think of what you want people to do – the product – as the total brand.  A brand isn’t simply an icon and a tagline; it’s a comprehensive strategy that embraces all aspects of the behaviour you want to promote.  Successful brands have emotion and narrative, they draw us in and make us feel good. They are simple to understand and they motivate action.

To develop and promote your brand – the behaviour you want people to adopt – you must begin at the source of the problem you’re trying to solve (the root of the “bad habit”) and identify the people who need their habits adjusted.

I believe in baby-steps towards new healthy habit, and getting really focused on how to tackle the bad habit:

Is it about a belief? (If I drop gum or cigarette butts on the street, it isn’t littering)

Is it about knowledge? (I don’t know what to do with my gum or cigarette butts)

Is it about behaviour? (everyone around me seems to drop them on the ground, so it must be the way things go here)

Once you determine the source of the problem, and who lies at the heart of it, then you can develop strategies and TEST them with the target audience. And remember – if the call to action seems overly simple to you, the expert, it’s probably right on. You have the benefit of hearing the tune in your head already, you know what to do and why to do it. Your target audience doesn’t have the tune playing. It is essential to remove as many barriers to adopting the new behaviour, knowledge, and belief habits as possible.

Stay laser focused, start small, and keep it simple!

February 5, 2014
by randi
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What’s In It For Me: A Love Story

Whenever we take our relationships and their benefits for granted we’re taking a big risk. Sure, we know that we can offer more than the competition, but love is not rational.

I have two passions: saving the snow and the people who play in it. When it comes to making progress in these areas, I use the same social marketing principles to achieve results. This is not a rushed process; imagine that an awareness campaign is a coffee date and a social marketing strategy is…so much more satisfying. All good lovers know that you have to invest time listening for understanding before you can speak to be understood.

What it all comes down to is personal price; what’s in it for me. This is simple to understand in a commercial setting, but it is often underestimated when the product is a cause. Whenever change is offered, we naturally ask ourselves what we’ll have to give up and evaluate the perceived benefits. This is true for love and for social transformation.

Very often, the greatest price is a shift in identity, likely because the new identity is unknown. This is where it’s valuable to have friends (the bright spots) who have already adopted the desirable identity to share the benefits of transition:

  • From someone who feels disconnected from the community (lone wolf identity) to someone who gives back (social connector identity).
  • From someone who doesn’t believe that personal actions will make a difference to someone who feels like he’s on the winning team.
  • From someone who is focused on immediate results or a quick win to someone who invests time in developing skills, relationships or new habits that make a difference in the long run.

When it comes to keeping the snow on the hills, we tell people to Power Down on Fridays to stop energy waste. Simple and concrete. Here’s how to do it:

  • Introduce the idea and sell them on why: in schools, teaching staff understand that money saved by tackling energy waste equates to new educational assistant positions.
  • Place posters around the workplace, as well as personally delivered funny thank you notes from office equipment. Keep it light with fun multi-media reminders.
  • Reward participation, distribute small chocolates on desks for people who remember to shut off electronic equipment before they leave for the weekend.

The message that keeps people safe in the snow must be equally simple and concrete:

  • Promote a new understanding of where avalanche dangers exist through social networks, and dispel misconceptions of how much time and cost is involved in developing safety skills.
  • Encourage diverse voices of support, including unexpected endorsements, to create the impression of a “new normal” in mountain safety habits.
  • Benefits need to be visceral: if you can’t dig your buddy out of 6 feet of snow, are you prepared to tell his parents why he didn’t come home from a day on the hill with you?

Don’t take your messaging for granted. Find out what people will have to give up to adopt the behavior you want, and then make the benefits so irresistible that the competition fades into history.

January 1, 2014
by randi
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Follow the Bright Spots to Success

Making and breaking resolutions is a time-honored tradition. This year, rather than resolving to stop doing all the things that are slowing you down, get curious about what’s already working well and incubate growth from a place of success. If you’re in the business of making the world a better place (and if you’re not, really, what are you doing with your time?), the concept of appreciative inquiry or more simply, following the “bright spots”, is essential.

We all have bright spots. To find your own, think of a situation where something went surprisingly well (a partner negotiation or media campaign, for example) and excavate the details until you find out why it worked so well. This will make it easier to engineer the necessary conditions to replicate your success.

I’ll leave it to you to kick your late night brownie habit and assume you have bigger aspirations for the year ahead.

Whatever your goals are, the first step is defining your target audience. All strategy flows from a deep understanding of whom you’re trying to reach and why. From there we ask, what do we want this group to start doing, or stop doing? This is our product, our “ask”. By examining the social rewards that early adopters (the “bright spots”) enjoy, we uncover hidden benefits for our target group.

Across North America right now, we have an “ask” for skiers and boarders exploring beyond resort boundaries: carry safety equipment and know how to use it. Rather than promoting this product directly, we need to uncover the benefits of the product for the target group and promote those. We need to answer the question, “what’s in it for me?” People don’t buy what you do (or sell), they buy why. Some benefits to becoming prepared for an avalanche could include:

  • Being perceived as the trusted friend who knows how to dig his buddies out of an avalanche if he needs to. Identity as special and different from the groomer cruisers.
  • The opportunity to explore further in the mountain because having the training and equipment builds confidence and expands the terrain available.
  • Fewer injuries and lost riding days due to recovery from surviving an avalanche incident. Not everyone who experiences an avalanche survives (and being alive is an awesome benefit).
  • Keeping up with other accomplished skiers and boarders who already have avalanche training and equipment, and fit in with the crowd you care about most.

Now we can start to think about different scenarios in which the target group might perform the desired behavior, and identify opportunities to promote the benefits of the product attributes. People heading into the side country follow a somewhat predictable timeline; here are a few examples of where we could intervene to influence their behavior:

  • Preparing for the season – work with ski/snowboard retailers to actively promote purchase of avalanche equipment. Discounts or other benefits could be provided to those who register for avalanche training at the time of their equipment purchase.
  • Getting psyched for the season – collaborate with pro ski/snowboard film makers to make avalanche safety more prominent. Explore the option of including target audience-generated content as promotional campaign prize.
  • Organizing friends for the day – connect with the bright spot role models to have them nominate a peer they know would benefit from avalanche training, and feature their stories online.
  • Heading up the hill – partner with resorts to deliver a short term campaign where riders who have completed avalanche training are given special and highly visible resort privileges (lift line priority, free lunch, gear, etc).
  • Celebrating the day – team up with bars to start online scrapbooks about the side country, and “seed” them with stories about what people did before they got their sick lines.

Testing both the benefits and their appropriate delivery is critical, and this is where focus groups and interviews inform an effective strategy. Throughout January, we’re hosting focus groups in BC, Colorado, Utah and Washington. We’re looking for the side country bright spots. Let us know if you want to help find them.

November 25, 2013
by randi
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You can’t afford to keep raising awareness

Give yourself the gift of time and measurable results! Register today for the Introduction to Social Marketing workshop in Vancouver!

Why? You can’t afford to keep raising awareness – awareness doesn’t stick.

Winter has arrived and the powder hounds are rubbing their hands with glee. While most of us are tuning our gear and planning our holidays, the hard working team at the Canadian Avalanche Centre (CAC) is going through a revolution. When influencing people is a matter of life and death, the motivation to improve communications strategy is high. The CAC is a non-profit organization dedicated to safe mountain recreation. Like most non-profit groups, they are a small operation passionate about their mandate. They invest thousands of hours and hard-won fundraising dollars in their efforts to reduce the number of “events” – their term for people getting caught in an avalanche.

Their revolution is about shifting from raising awareness to changing behaviour. Think about it this way: Coca Cola doesn’t raise awareness about its brand; it sells you a product. The same marketing logic transfers to any public sector mandate or non-profit mission. We don’t often think about non-profits as “selling” something, but once we start, it transforms the communications approach away from providing awareness to social marketing.  Wouldn’t you like your communications to stick?

The first step in this revolution is to get laser-focused on your audience: who are you trying to reach (here’s a hint: “the public” is not an audience). Get curious about your people and recognize that they will have different needs, barriers, and motivations. Once again, the private sector has figured this out; that’s why you see power bar ads at the gym, not Coke ads. Most organizations focus their efforts almost entirely on promotions, developing brochures, posters, newsletters and media releases. This tactic poses at least two problems: 1) if you haven’t figured out who specifically you need to reach to advance your mandate the promotions will not stick, and 2) if your promotions raise awareness about the issue without really helping your group to adopt new behaviour, nothing will change.

Here’s a quick teaser on what you will learn in the behaviour change workshop:

On a scale of 1 – 10, with the higher end being the best possible, identify and score your audience segments against the criteria in the table below (the five segments may be determined by age, gender, location,  skill, or other variables). Note that your scores will be determined in their comparison against each other.

S: Size: total number of people that you could influence; estimated population

AR: At Risk: degree of participation in the behaviour you are seeking to change; benefit from influence

P: Persuadability: reasonable to expect change in attitudes and behaviour of the group; malleability

A: Accessibility: ease in reaching the group through existing communications tools; practical factors

RR: Resources Required: financial, staff, and structural assets needed to reach the group; expense of effort

Segment

S

AR

P

A

RR

TOTAL

#1
#2
#3
#4
#5

Now you are starting to narrow your spotlight, but you’re not done yet. Motivating your target audience to take action requires careful analysis of your product (what you want them to do), the price they will pay (what they have to give up to do it), and how and where you will reach them. This is why Coke doesn’t advertise at gyms.

Sharpen your communications tools and 2014 will be a revolutionary year. Register today!

 

October 25, 2013
by randi
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How to play nice in the sustainability sandbox

On yet another foggy day in Vancouver, 500 people are crowded into the convention centre to hear Mark Lee speak. And there’s a good reason he can draw such a crowd: after more than two decades inspiring and leading international companies down the sustainability path, he’s got some helpful insights on system transformation.

Part of the secret to his success is his unwavering commitment to collaboration. And lest you think the desire to share is unique to the tree-hugger types, even Warren Buffett credits his achievements to knowing his “circle of competence,” inviting talent where and when he needs it. At first glance, the idea of working with others (sometimes referred to as sharing the toys in the sandbox) may seem impossible if you have been entirely focused on beating your competition.  When Lee talks about collaboration, he means between public and private sector organizations, and even within a single industry.

Lee and his team at SustainAbility have been studying the performance and public perception of top brands for years, and they have discovered some critical factors that set leading companies apart.  All of them have established Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) targets and are actively working towards them. And the winners are: Unilever, GE, Patagonia, and Marks and Spencer.

In recessions, collaborative companies are proven to be the most resilient to changing conditions. They build their CSR strategy with the intention of having it support their businesses succeed in the long term, rather than seeing it as a short term marketing ploy.

Not sure where to start? Think about your own business and incorporate as many collaborative principles as you can, such as your:

Offer: demonstrate how your service or product directly connects to sustainability goals in very practical ways; embed CSR into the lifeblood of your business.

Brand: connect with your target audience by inviting them to participate in shaping and meeting CSR goals; give people a chance to voice their opinions and take action, and watch brand loyalty soar.

Vision: focus on why your organization exists beyond what you do. People are increasingly interested in the foundational values of the companies they support, and they can tell if it’s the real deal or not.

Goals: motivate your staff and other business stakeholders to continually strive to meet ambitious targets that not only improve the bottom line but also local communities.

Transparency: influence industry peers to get beyond compliance culture and change the status quo to make the collective business context more sustainable; the economy exists within ecological constraints (thank you, Dr. Suzuki).

Advocacy: mobilize government leaders to implement policies that make CSR the norm, not the exception.

Products: improve what you sell to be better and different; better meaning higher efficiency (think hybrid), and different meaning alternative model (think Car2Go)

Aside from the prestige of being known as an innovative company, not to mention the legacy you’ll leave for your children, there are bottom line benefits to increasing collaboration:

Add expertise, because really, do you  have all the skills needed make your company as successful as it can be?

Share risk when implementing new systems or policies by working with others to level the playing field

Increase value through increased operational efficiencies and enhanced brand reputation

If your “circle of competence” doesn’t include a future-proof collaborative communications strategy, give me a call.

September 18, 2013
by randi
2 Comments

Saving energy at work boosts employee morale

stay high on Maslow's hierarchy of need

Whether it’s back to school or back to work, September can be a month when mojo is low. After weeks of playing in the sunshine, the sudden shift to deadlines and cooler weather can have a serious dampening effect on motivation. This is the time of year when the pressure to deliver ramps up in equal measure to feelings of irritation with colleagues and frustration with administration. It’s also the time of year when energy use increases, with more people turning on heating, lighting and other electrical appliances.

Combining staff engagement issues with energy conservation is a brilliant way to turn the trend in a more positive direction, and it takes less time than you think.

In case you need some motivation to tackle the twin challenges of listless employees and escalating operational costs, consider this: according to HR experts, most people quit their jobs in September. Apparently, a little time off in the summer gives people the chance to assess professional goals and think clearly about what they want, often illuminating the disconnect between what they care about and how they spend their time at work. And we have all just learned that BC Hydro is poised to introduce rate increases in the months ahead to fund new capital projects and rebuild aging infrastructure.

So where to begin? You can help employees to create a new and positive kitchen-table story about how they spent their day at work by connecting with their personal values. Polls show that Canadians consider caring for the environment a top priority, and in fact, 92% of young professionals would be more inclined to work for an environmentally-friendly company than anywhere else. Engagement programs that empower employees by giving them easy ways to make a difference at work are proven morale boosters. Disgruntled employees aren’t just a drag in the office, they’re expensive!

Green workplace programs abound, from do-it-yourself toolkits to expert teams. Here’s my advice after some time in the trenches:

  1. Find one or two people who seem like they could use a little inspiration, and ask for their help with a special fall project. Do you know why most projects don’t get support? People don’t ask! Research shows that if you simply ask for what you need, you will receive.
  2. Communicate why you’re investing time in energy conservation, and ask others why they care. It’s not about how to do it; it’s about connecting to people’s values. Many research projects are exploring how to best tailor your message for different audiences. In general: “legacy for future generations” motivates women, and “innovation in the workplace” motivates men.
  3. Stay out of Maslow’s basement and stay focused on vision. Social science and common sense are consistent: I am compelled to support a power saving project because I am inspired to make a difference for my kids. I am not especially interested in saving my boss a few dollars in the monthly electrical bill.
  4. Be simple and easy to follow and the best way to do this is to do one thing and do it well. With Power Smart month just around the corner, there are lots of great tips on saving energy. Resist the urge to take on everything! Start with a theme such as lighting, heating, or plug load and build your action plan from there.
  5. Shine the spotlight on the keeners that enthusiastically jump on the bandwagon in the early days of the project, before everyone knows it’s cool. Whatever you’re doing needs to be about meeting people where they are, and working as a team to achieve a common goal.

Good luck, fearless leaders. Let me know how I can help.

July 6, 2013
by randi
0 comments

The Secret to Going Viral

Summertime is all about reading, isn’t it? You’ve probably got at least one, maybe two books on the go right now and every spare moment at the lake with your nose buried in pages. I’m a bit obsessed with behaviour change – I like to understand why we do the things we do, and how to shift from awareness to action – so I was thrilled when Contagious by Jonah Berger came into my life.

In my work, success means making something a worthy topic for people to talk about.

I’ve had the privilege of working with some amazing groups lately. Whether it’s with the BC Hydro Power Smart program, the Canadian Diabetes Foundation, or the Canadian Avalanche Centre, each organization is passionately committed to advancing an idea. They want to raise awareness about their mission with as many people as possible. The challenge, however, is often in getting the right people (the target audience) to act on their awareness.

The Contagious book outlines the essential steps in creating a word-of-mouth social epidemic; in other words, it demystifies why an idea or product goes viral. Reading the whole book is highly recommended, but if you can’t squeeze it in, here are 6 ingredients to bake into your next behaviour change campaign:

  • Triggers need many opportunities to be top of mind: top of mind means tip of the tongue, and what is essential for an idea to catch on is for other people to share it with their friends.
  • Social currency makes me feel special, so if I’m going to share an idea, give me something to talk about that makes me look good with my friends.
  • Emotion is the key to helping us remember a message and ultimately care about it; when we care, we share.
  • Practical information is most likely to be passed long through conversation; we all like to appear helpful.
  • Public behaviours are way easier to imitate, so the more we can provide spaces and places where the desired choices are highly visible to our target market, the more likely others will emulate them.
  • Stories need to be so compelling and loaded with the message about what we want people to do that people can’t re-tell the story without sharing the message at the same time.
As a way of illustrating my appreciation for Berger’s “viral recipe”, here’s a quick outline of a new project I’m working on.

Almost three months ago, more than 1,100 people died when one of the hundreds of Bangladesh garment factories collapsed due to unsafe building conditions. It is the deadliest disaster in the history of the industry, claiming mostly young women whose job was to produce cheap clothing for international brands such as The Gap and Walmart. If this makes you feel angry, you’re not alone.

Since the collapse, consumer reports are showing a growing demand for a safer, more humane alternative. Where I live, in Whistler, I want to “close the gap” between our compassion and our action. Imagine a back-to-school shopping experience that reduces global warming, protects international workers, saves you money, and connects you with your neighbours, a grassroots, short term thrift store that is the new normal September routine. A special Sea to Sky pop up event that redistributes high quality used clothes and at the same time donates money to a local charity, like the Playground Builders. No long drives, no big-box guilt. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Tell me what you think!

May 17, 2013
by randi
0 comments

Raising awareness is a cop out

Have you been guilty of raising awareness? Me too. Many mission-based organizations fall into this trap. The problem you’re devoted to solving seems so enormous you can’t resist shaming the “general public” with generic messages that the end is near and we must all act now.

But how? Sadly, the behaviors that need changing are often so buried in vague emotional pleas that even if a receptive audience is reached, they won’t don’t know what to do. Surely there is a better way.

A few years ago a story landed on my desk and I felt compelled to follow it down the rabbit hole. As it turns out, it was the best decision I made all year. What started off as a personal favour turned into a multi-year partnership between two iconic brands:  NHL players and David Suzuki. Watch the video.

Powerful partnerships can expand your base of support and build momentum for your mission. But partnerships alone won’t sell your behavior.

If you have a social purpose, it is critical that you eradicate the word “awareness” from your communications. It’s a terrible habit; worse, it’s a cop out. You are not trying to raise awareness, you are trying to create measurable change and to do this, you need to get comfortable with the concept of marketing and commit to a narrow target audience. You are selling something – biking to work, eating local food, voting – and there are some critical elements to include in your strategy if you want people to buy in.

Grounded on thorough research and market testing, good social marketing must be in some ways unauthorized and disruptive for the message to be sticky, and in this environment it is nearly impossible to control communication. But rather than a risk to be managed, we have an opportunity to empower brand ambassadors. Partnerships with suppliers, buyers, funders, and online followers can lend credibility to the message. The question is: are we willing to let go of the reins and invite the unexpected?

Get beyond awareness with three simple steps:

  1. Know your peeps: the most critical and neglected step, learn about your target audience and segment them into groups that are as similar to each other as possible, considering both demographic data as well as current habits. It’s much easier to have insight into a group when you spend some time with them. People love to talk about themselves; ask them what they care about and create your communications to give them what they want, not what you want them to want.
  2. Appreciate the costs: remember that you are selling a behavior, and often your competition is stiff: peer approval, additional time or inconvenience, and even financial commitment. You need to maximize the benefits to adopting the new behavior using the language of your target audience. Let them know that they have been heard, and reach them where they are, not where you want them to be.
  3. Understand the environment: our communications don’t exist in a bubble, and shifting behavior takes time. Of course you are committed to your mission, but try not to let your enthusiasm overwhelm the crowd (we’ve all been there). This kind of work requires a long term commitment to see results as well as sensitivity to the context for your audience. Adapt to the changing context, but at the same time be consistent to avoid being perceived as a passing fad. The behavior you’re selling is the new norm and it’s here to stay.

To learn more about social marketing and invite experts in the field into your organization, check out the Centre of Excellence for Public Sector Marketing