How to Influence Change: 3 Lessons I’ve Learned

After 20 years of helping companies and influential nonprofits compel change, I’ve learned valuable lessons about what it takes to get people to take action. Chief among them is that it’s not about the issue–it’s about what the issue means in people’s lives.

Despite our passion for the causes we promote, people change their attitudes and behaviors based how they see themselves, or want to see themselves, in relation to our issue. When crafting your campaign’s key messages, it’s important to probe into what your stakeholders think, feel, and believe about themselves.

  1. How to Prioritize Your Audience
    When it comes to prioritizing audiences for campaign, understand that people see themselves in one of two ways: either as active players in creating change, or as spectators in the stands—happy to root for you, but otherwise passive. You’ll need both.  Foraging beyond those two constituent groups take time and deep resources.
  2. We are Who We Hope to Be
    Recent studies on “social strivers” shows that the link between identity and aspiration is powerful. It also points a new wave of consumer aspirations rising in the culture More and more, ambitions around social progress are directly tied to people’s identities—how they see themselves. Others changes in what we aspire to have deep roots in economic uncertainty, and still others are being accelerated by social technologies. No matter what the triggers are, the following will help you craft your message platform:
  • Weave in themes that reflect your stakeholder’s deeper values across a broader spectrum than just your particular issue. In a campaign promoting Internet privacy, for example, we found our core stakeholders were fervent supporters of First Amendment rights.
  • Share stories of similar types of individuals who easily adopted the desired attitude or behavior change and felt emotionally gratified by doing so. Invite those people you’ve profiled to share their stories with their networks, as well.
  • Make it easy for people to share small wins with others in their networks. Nugget your content. Use right’s free photos. Make share-worthy infographics using free
  1. How Rewards and Reciprocity Boost Outcomes
    No matter how noble your cause, people want recognition for getting behind it. You’ll need to reciprocate their likes, shares, and sign-ups. Make a plan to capture and reward early advocates ASAP.

Naturally, this type of messaging demands that you have keen insight into your audience. Knowing who’s consuming which types of media, social advocacy and otherwise, and what they value is critical if you’re serious about inspiring change.

For many, the place to begin is by listening. That’s the beauty of the social era. Twitter, Instagram and Facebook are terrific tools for gathering insights into people’s higher aspirations.

It’s neither obvious nor easy to build a campaign that creates real change. It’s craftsman like work. But when you make the leap, it will boost your success in many areas.