Stop Kony 2012 – key lessons in communication

Business StorytellingOnly if you were hiding under a rock all of last week could you have missed the Kony 2102 viral video campaign. The campaign swept the Internet, becoming the number one news topic, raising over $15 million dollars in two days and attracting over 70 million views. Even our hairdresser was talking about it!

The Washington Post summarizes its success by noting “the viral video campaign has achieved something very real that essentially nothing else up to this point could — broad exposure and emotional connection that now carries many tens of thousands, if not more, of passionate supporters”.

Wherever you stand on the broad spectrum of public opinion on the campaign from praise to criticism there are some core communication tips every leader can learn from its success – and none of them have to do with the power of social media.

Make me care

The most important communication commandment if you want to influence, and shift behavior is ‘ make me care’. Make me care about your message, emotionally, intellectually, and physically.

The hard-nosed truth is most leadership communication doesn’t make people care.  What would make your audience care and please it can’t be the prosaic like it’s important, or it makes sense.  It has to be bigger than that.  The Kony 2012 campaign makes us care about child soldiers.  How I hear you ask.  They do it by using stories.

Filmmaker Jason Russell uses three stories to weave his narrative.  He draws us in with the story of his gorgeous five-year-old son called Gavin.  The story of his African friend Jacob and finally the story of the difference everyone can make.  Moving, engaging and above all authentic.  Note the strategic choice of stories – he chooses not to tell us the story of Uganda or even Kony himself, but chooses these other lenses – simple, fresh and yet powerful.  The story through his son Gavin, engages us as the innocent, the story of his friend Jacob takes us to the harsh brutality of life in Uganda.  Again we are moved and shaken but by focusing on just one person – Jacob, we feel connected and not overwhelmed.  By then moving on to the story to what people all over the world have done, he moves makes us feel empowered, knowing we can make a difference.


Call to action

The Kony 2012 invites action; otherwise all its power and 30 minutes of our time have been wasted.  It was designed to provoke action.  This is as simple as using social media to like, share, tweet, or to donate money or purchase an action kit.

This campaign succeeds where many business communications fail.  The people behind STOP KONY fully understood what they wanted their listeners to do, feel or think differently after hearing their message.  When working with our business leaders we often ask them, “What do you want your staff to do, feel or think differently after the presentation or briefing?”.  The vast majority cannot answer this in the detail required and respond with a “I want them to get excited about it, or get behind it”.  And then get frustrated when nothing changes.

Get key influencers on board early

Jason Russell the creator of Kony 2012 gets the power of celebrities.  He says in his video “Celebrities, athletes and billionaires have a loud voice and what they talk about spreads instantly”.  His campaign targeted influencers like Bono, Oprah and Rhianna and was closing in on 39 million YouTube views the day it was launched.

Now in business we are not suggesting you get Bono or Oprah out for your next internal strategy briefing to staff, although it would no doubt get people turning up …but ask yourself “Who are the influencers – the movers and shakers in our world?”  Can you get them onboard first so they influence the way your messages are received?  If you can get them talking and excited, that will have a ripple effect all through your business.  We are not talking about the token ‘change champions’ but people who in an informal sense are key influencers.

So three timeless and proven methods of communication we can all learn from the success of the Stop Kony 2012 campaign:

  • Get people to care through stories
  • Be clear on what you want people to do, feel or think differently
  • Enlist key influencers, early

Do that and you are well on your way to success.

Leaders how to find your Communication Mojo NOW!

In an Austin Powers movie, Austin loses his mojo – stolen by Dr Evil and then destroyed!  The Dr Evils of Leadership communication are corporate jargon (executional excellence anyone?), and mojo destroying PowerPoint slides, dense with data.

So how can you as a leader restore your communication mojo, if it’s lost or destroyed? Today’s leadership literature states that people crave connection & authenticity in their leaders.   Where better to show this than in your communication & let your communication mojo shine.

A skill that can help you build connections is storytelling.  This is story shared by a leader that does just that.

“I grew up in England with two brothers.  One of my brothers was learning to ride a bicycle and every Saturday my father would take him up to a nearby hill and he would pedal down, while all us kids watched and cheered.  He used to do this with a bike that had training wheels and after many Saturdays of this my father took the training wheels off.

I was determined to repeat his feat and persuaded my father to let me ride down the hill too, on my bike with no training wheels.  My father very very reluctantly agreed.  I was very excited when we walked to the top of the hill.  I could see my brothers and friends at the bottom of the hill looking on.  I got on to my bike and shot off down the hill and to my shock the bike started hurtling down the hill faster and faster, almost out of control – I could see the stunned faces of the children waiting below and before the bike hit the ground I hurled myself off onto the grass and rolled down laughing, much to everyone’s shock!

On that day I learnt two important life lessons.  If someone can do something so can I, and no matter what you are trying in life always have an exit plan.”

Ann Burns, Accenture

This kind of storytelling because it is a true personal experience, has a healthy level of self-disclosure & humility helps people connect with you.  It’s refreshing and packed with mojo!

But how do you get authenticity from communication like this?  People can immediately sense authenticity. For any storytelling to work it has be authentic.  People will immediately sense if it is or not.

Imagine this story used in a presentation or woven into a team meeting at an appropriate point of course.  So much more mojo laden than the usual clichés of  “Believe in yourself”, or even worse some turgid jargon fest intended to convey the same message.

The Austin Powers film has a happy ending as Austin finds even though Dr Evil destroyed his mojo, he had his mojo inside him all along!  He simply had to be encouraged to find it.   So there’s hope for all of us as leaders – we have our communication mojo in us already, and just have to have the courage and confidence to set it free.

Fun At Work?

Business StorytellingOn March 15th the Hub turns One.  And on top of that, the Hub has just moved into a brand new expanded space. So the first thing that popped up was ‘PARTY TIME”.  It’s a Mad Hatter’s Party that promises to be an awesome night with entertainment, music and DJs!  There’s a great poster advertising the party  and everyone is buzzing about it.

This made me think about how often do we have fun at work?  Doesn’t have to be party fun but could even be small things. I remember in one of my previous workplaces on stinking hot days the boss would do an ice cream run.  So perfect!  And sometimes we had ice cream just randomly on Fridays.  When I worked at an office in Box Hill we used to do a ‘Custard Bun’ run to a nearby Vietnamese bakery.  Of course we tried not to do this more than once a week.  Oops both my examples are food related, but the purpose was to show it doesn’t have to be a big affair, even small things that perk people up and break the monotony of the work week all help.

Bernie Dekoven a ‘Fun Coach’ says even meetings can be fun with toys, food and games and believes ‘When fun gets deep enough it can heal the world’. Fun is serious business.

Of course fun can be intrinsic to your work – when you love what you do you probably have fun doing it …most days.  To paraphrase a  Marian Keyes one of my favourite authors  work is not meant to be all fun & relaxing, ‘That’s why it’s called work, otherwise it would be called ‘Deep Tissue massage’.

Some thought and effort have to go into making work fun.  I remember recently watching ‘Date night’ where Steve Carrel & Tina Fey play a married couple whose domestic life had become boring and routine. To reignite their romance they create a weekly ‘date night’ and both action and comedy ensues.  I’m not suggesting a date night for work – more like a date with fun where we think of different things we can do to make work fun…and both action and comedy will ensue.

When have you had fun at work? We Would love for you to share what fun ideas you have had at work.