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):

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 (the devil you know is an irritating but still comfortable companion). It’s a major barrier for our clients: they also have to contend with market noise (the competition for attention is becoming a blood sport), and they usually have first-mover disadvantage (the downsides of leading take many companies by surprise). It can sometimes be dispiriting, to say the least.

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, hits the market sweet spot, and serves as a touchstone for business decisions. It means a public relations program that heightens the company’s profile, spreads leaders’ insights and raises awareness of the challenges they’re tackling. And it means a content marketing program that educates and motivates the market.

Build that 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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