Revolutionaries need a strong communications platform

Sandra Stewart | March 22, 2016

As anyone who has ever tried to change an industry—or some other aspect of the world—knows, change is a slog. I’ve never seen it put better than in this opening to a New Yorker profile of Ford Foundation President Darren Walker. It’s a great piece, and worth a read, especially in the context of a communications platform:

The urge to change the world is normally thwarted by a near-insurmountable barricade of obstacles: failure of imagination, failure of courage, bad governments, bad planning, incompetence, corruption, fecklessness, the laws of nations, the laws of physics, the weight of history, inertia of all sorts, psychological unsuitability on the part of the would-be changer, the resistance of people who would lose from the change, the resistance of people who would benefit from it, the seduction of activities other than world-changing, lack of practical knowledge, lack of political skill, and lack of money.

Status quo bias looms large in that list of obstacles. (The devil you know is an irritating but still comfortable companion). It’s a major challenge for our clients, revolutionaries who contend with market noise (a competition that is becoming a blood sport). They usually also have first-mover disadvantage (the downside of leading takes many by surprise). These big barriers can sometimes be dispiriting, to say the least.

Go beyond celebrating the small stuff

Still, it’s anything but hopeless. People who succeed at sparking change tend to celebrate the small stuff—but they don’t stop there. (The B Corp movement is a great example of this.)

Revolutionaries also know that a strong communications platform provides an essential boost. For sustainable businesses, that means a brand story and messaging that inspires inside and outside the company. It means a PR program that spreads leaders’ insights and raises awareness of the challenges they’re tackling. And it means a content strategy that educates and motivates the market.

Build that communications platform, and you’ll be able to storm the barricades.

Coincidentally, in May, Darren Walker will be a featured speaker at the Stanford Social Innovation Review conference, Frontiers of Social Innovation.


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