At SocialChangeCamp New York 09, I led a session with a dozen other folks on how to combat stakeholder apathy using social tools. Cause exhaustion and apathy remains a reality for many causes, especially in a recession year. While many people recognize problems such as climate change or homelessness, few people act.
We had fifteen tips or ideas on how to get people over the apathy hump:
1) Stakeholder stories: Instead of the organization pleading the cause, let the beneficiaries and donors do so through social tools. From photos and videos to stories and tweets, authentic stories can convince someone to act where even the best PR fails.
2) Make it easy to understand and take action. This is the one click principle, as Damien said chunking the issue down making the large issues, smaller and much more manageable. The key here is to make it easy to act daily with multiple options.
3) Make them heroes: Publicly laud people who act and make them heroes. Those on the fence will want to join them in the metaphorical winner’s circle.
4) Show them their pain: Many people will shirk off a problem as not theirs. Get them to experience how the cause impacts them. For example, film homeless people camped outside a Wall Street financier’s house. In essence, embarrass the guilty.
5) Remind them that in actuality the cause touches their life, too! For example everyone knows someone who has had cancer.
6) Bring it into the current time period. The holocaust is the great example here, but by citing current genocide situations like Darfur, activists can keep the situation real and current.
7) Show them doing good has rewards. In the September issues of Harvard Business Review, Bill Clinton said, “The belief that companies must choose between doing good and being profitable is outdated.” Show companies how sustainability and other social good initiatives actually impact their bottom line for the better.
8) Make sure the action meets their needs, too (event, entertainment, etc.). The Twestival series of events provides a great example. Twenty somethings got a great social event, and charities throughout the world raised much needed funds.
9) Educate and convert influencers into trust agents. Along the lines of #1, the best people to convince others often isn’t the organization. Converting already prominent influencers into brand ambassadors and trust agents can be a much faster route to word of mouth and action.
10) Show them the impact of their actions, particularly with large mega issues. For example, using a canteen can save xx barrels of crude oil from being processed over a year.
11) Factual, honest and simple (KISS): That’s for the PR folks. Don’t BS people, and tell the truth in plain English. People smell BS a mile away and it can be the thing that’s holding folks back.
12) Permutation of linear, mass action: Ah, the wing of a butterfly story. How does your touch impact another, who touches another, who touches, etc., etc.
13) No interruptions, instead provide relevant non-intrusive dialogue. You don’t need to get in people’s faces with your efforts (PETA comes to mind), instead provide a more meaningful conversation with real impact.
14) Piggyback on larger, related societal events and issues. This is an old PR strategy, but still relevant: Ride the coattails. For example, last week’s G20 meeting was a great visibility opportunity for socially savvy environmental organizations.
15) Mindfulness – Deep listening as meaningful communications. Don’t always be on, instead seriously listen to the community and add your two cents when it has value impact to offer. Your communications may be better received.