$US80 million and counting: The recipe for going viral

imagesDavid Beckham and Brad Pitt have done it, and Kim Kardashian even caved in. But in a classic Kim moment, she stopped to take a selfie first. “It” is the ice-bucket challenge, which involves dumping icey water on your head, then challenging others to follow suit.  The challenge raises money for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) – known as motor neurone disease in Australia. People can accept the challenge, donate money, or do both.

The challenge quickly went viral, raising millions of dollars worldwide. Every charity faces the battle of raising money and awareness – the ice-bucket challenge has done both with stupendous success.  It has also spurred offshoots, such as India’s rice bucket challenge, where people donate a bucket of rice to someone in need, and the rubble-bucket challenge, which creates awareness about suffering in Gaza.

What can we learn from this campaign, as business communicators and influencers?

  • Everyone loves a dare: The playful ice-bucket challenge has broad appeal.
  • Make progress visible: Have you dumped water on yourself or donated instead? Who have you nominated? The accountability factor is captivating.
  • Co-create with your audience: Audience involvement shapes and shares the story. You, as the communicator, need to give up some control for this to happen.  Let your audience create the movement by passing on the message to their friends and family, instead of being passive recipients of your message.

By finding a human, emotive side to your goal, you’ll create buy-in – and with luck, your message could be the next to go viral!  Please comment, I love hearing from you.

Quantum leap your influence

What if lives were saved or lost because of your ability to influence?  How do you influence when the stakes are so high?
Pet Rescue Australia faces exactly this situation every day.  Sadly 100,000 rescue dogs are put down every year in Australia. jerky-dog
To make a difference, Pet Rescue had to influence more Australians to adopt dogs from shelters.  They also had to overcome the very first barrier that is actually getting people to visit a shelter.  Their strategy was simple ‘If we can’t bring people to the rescue dogs, we’ll bring rescue dogs to the people!  But how?  Pet Rescue is a not for profit with limited resources and marketing spend.
One of the insights they had was most people look like their dogs!  Really, and there is some scientific evidence that backs this up.  They used this insight to deploy their strategy.
An app was built titled Dog-A-Like.  You can download the app, upload your photo and it scans through all the photos of dogs in rescue shelters and ‘bingo’ finds your perfect dog match.  Dog-A-Like was an instant hit and became the No. 1 App in the Australian iTunes store for two weeks.  Whether people were thinking of getting a dog or not, everyone started using it and uploading their perfect match images on to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  And the results, 36% increase in dogs rehomed – over 2200 dogs every month.  This has been Australia’s single most successful dog rehoming campaign to date.  Inspiring!
An insight, a simple strategy and involving your customers to create a new story worth sharing.  A potent mix to quantum leap your influence.

Please comment, I would love to hear your thoughts.

Who is the most influential person on the planet?

Every year Time Magazine publishes a list of the 100 most influential people.   In introducing this year’s list, Managing Editor of Time, Nancy Gibbs said “The TIME 100 is a list of the world’s most influential men and women, not its most powerful. Power is a tool, influence is a skill; one is a fist, the other a fingertip”. beyonce-knowles-time-100-feat

Beyoncéis on the 2014 cover as the most influential person on the planet. Interestingly Beyoncé hasn’t been that happy recently.  She has been trying to have some unflattering photos of her performing at the 2014 Super Bowl pulled, but with no luck.  Even Larry Page and Sergey Brin the founders of Google, have been unable to eliminate photos of them dressed in drag from their college years floating around on the Internet.

So Rule 1 on Influence: Know what you can and can’t influence (even if you are the most influential person on the planet or own Google).

David Sinclair a geneticist also featured in this list.

He has discovered a compound that makes old cells young again, possibly the fountain of youth, this discovery is HUGE.  When interviewed Sinclair said “While it’s a great honour to be on the list and be recognized by Time magazine, I can’t still actually get my kids to pick their stuff off the bedroom floor”.

Mr Sinclair please re read rule 1, there are no exceptions to this rule!

What are your thoughts on influence or influential people? Please comment, I love hearing from you.

PS. I highly recommend buying a copy of this issue, it makes interesting reading.  The writing is also beautiful, particularly President Obama’s piece on Pope Francis.





Rhinos on skateboards! Grabbing attention with your message

Business StorytellingIn the visual clutter that is our world,  the simple poster ad for Yarra trams immediately grabbed my attention.  If you live in Melbourne, you have probably seen it .  The logo and poster campaign use a silhouetted rhino on a skateboard as a public safety message. The campaign was designed to prevent pedestrians (distracted by mobile phones etc) from being hit by trams.  But it’s different from your conventional public safety messages.

The insight that a tram weighs the same as a herd of rhinos allowed for an original delivery of the message. It also targets 18 – 30 year olds the demographic most commonly hit  by trams but who do not respond to authoritarian messages.

The purpose and the target audience explains the quirky campaign.  Compare this public safety message with a more conventional one from overseas on the same issue.   This  more conventional poster might work but it wouldn’t have hooked me enough to read the rest.Business Storytelling  And that’s the first step – you have to be able to cut through the clutter and grab your audience’s attention.

But we will know that the rhino campaign has really worked when a young person approaches another person at a tram stop and says…

“Can you tell me when the next rhino is ?”

Have you got any examples of attention grabbing messages?  Please comment.

Frank Lowy please ring me! Business Storytelling and Australia’s bid for the World Cup

Business StorytellingEvery four years  like a lot of people, I am gripped by soccer fever, thanks to the World Cup and  turn into a complete soccer tragic!  Given our time zone differences, here in Australia this involves setting our alarm for the earliest hours of the morning to watch the games ‘live’.  But it is absolutely worth it!

Like most people in Australia I am deeply disappointed that Australia won’t be hosting the 2022 World cup.  Life is a tough teacher.  You have the experience first and then you hopefully learn from it.  So what did we learn?  I am of course going to be looking at this through the lens of storytelling.   Caveat: We all know the whole bidding process is complex involves many strategies, and many players, political wrangling etc. So this is in no way a solution but something to consider as part our learning.

Using the storytelling lens and comparing Australia’s bid with Qatar’s three things to consider:

  1. The emotion each pitch was tapping into
  2. The audience
  3. The audience’s objections

Every time  I heard Frank Lowy pitching to host the World Cup he talked about Australia being a ‘safe pair of hands’.   The Australian bid tapped into a negative emotion, fear.  It looks like the FIFA committee (the audience) was not looking for a ‘safe pair of hands’.  Their decision to go with South Africa for the previous World Cup indicates this.  Another plank in our bid was ‘Make a country’s dreams come true’  which could apply to every country bidding for the World Cup.  On the other hand ABC news reporter Emma Alberici said Qatar presented a bid full of emotion, imploring the executive committee to make history by sending the World Cup to the Middle East for the first time.  Compare ‘Safe pair of hands’ with ‘The opportunity to make history’.

But what about the audience?   Any narrative we engage with has to be right for the audience.

On their web site FIFA states ‘For the Game. For the World’.  It is interesting to note the Qatar bid tag line states  ‘For football, for the Middle East, for the world’.  Perfect alignment.  Qatar was telling the committee you have the option to unite the Middle East and the world through football …compare that with making a single country’s dreams come true.

In their bios on the FIFA website one of the questions for the Executive Committee is ‘What does football mean to you?   It is interesting to note the range of answers from  Unity and friendship’, ‘Responsibility, service and joy’, ‘Team spirit and social responisbility’, ‘Unity and teamwork’.  Again the Qatar bid taps into this.

How do you in storytelling overcome the audience’s objections? One of the key hurdles for Australia was the time difference.  The Australian bid website states ‘A time zone for more than 60% of the world’s population. Australia will work closely with FIFA to ensure that the match schedule is designed to maximise total television audience numbers around the world’.

All necessary statement of fact but compare how objections can be handled in a compelling and emotionally engaging way.  In one of Qatar’s bid presentations a child is heard saying ‘So say the Israeli teams and the Arab teams go to the world cup and they play against each other.  Israelis would come to cheer their team and the Arabs would also come, then they would get to know each other’.  An adult voice then adds ‘Indeed what we saw in South Africa was harmony between all people there’.

Giving a speech after the wining host was announced, Qatar 2022 Bid Committee Chairman Sheikh Mohammad bin Hamad Al Thani said “On behalf of millions of people living in the Middle East, thank you,” he went on saying “Thank you for believing in us, thank you for having such bold vision. Thank you also for acknowledging this is the right time for the Middle East. We have a date with history which is summer 2022. We will not let you down. We will make you proud.”

He was letting the panel know this was about  football, but it was also about the Middle East and the world. The legacy they would leave the world with this decision.

Congratulations  Qatar on the historic win.  Frank Lowy please ring us and let’s start working on Australia’s bid for 2030.  The time is now …

Business storytelling and The Social Network movie

On the weekend I went to see The Social Network,a film about Mark Zukerberg the founder of Facebook.  While watching the film,  I was struck (yet again) by how powerful stories can be. Especially when compared to a statement of fact or even a metaphor.

In the movie, Zuckerberg sets up a meeting with Sean Parker, the 20-something founder of  Napster. Zuckerberg is being persuaded by Sean Parker to think big.  Parker actually does this in three stages.  First with a  statement, then with a metaphor and finally with a story.

Parker says “What’s cool is not a million dollars, but a billion dollars’.

Parker then advises Zuckerberg to choose his future using a metaphor: When you go fishing you can catch a lot of fish or you can catch a big fish. You ever walk into a guy’s den and see a picture of fourteen trout? No, he’s holding an 800-pound marlin and that’s what you want’.

Later, at a San Francisco night club, Parker influences Zuckerberg with this story of the founder of Victoria’s Secret.

‘A Stanford MBA named Roy Raymond, wants to buy his wife some lingerie but he’s too embarrassed to shop for it at a department store. Comes up with an idea for a high end place that doesn’t make you feel like a pervert. He gets a forty thousand dollar bank loan, borrows another forty thousand from his in-laws, opens a store and calls it Victoria’s Secret. Makes a half million dollars his first year. He starts a catalogue, opens three more stores and after five years he sells the company to Leslie Wexner and The Limited for four million dollars. Happy ending, right? Except four years later the company’s worth five hundred million dollars and Roy Raymond jumps off the Golden Gate Bridge. Poor guy just wanted to buy his wife a pair of thigh highs.’

So did the story work?

Jim Fink in his article Facebook IPO? Insights from the Social Network Movie says the lessons for Zuckerberg were :  THINK BIG , be patient and you’ll maximize the value of the business.   Jim also goes on to add that Zuckerberg took Parker’s advice. When former Yahoo! CEO Terry Semel offered to buy Facebook for a cool $1 billion in 2006, Mark turned him down.  Semel was shocked, stating later in an interview:  I’d never met anyone – forget his age, 22 then or 26 now – I’d never met anyone who would walk away from $1 billion. I couldn’t believe it.  Today Facebook is now worth 26 times what Semel offered to pay.

I am sharing this with you to illustrate how a statement a of  fact or a metaphor inform people but may not necessarily shift behaviour.  As both are based on logic and logic informs but doesn’ t always persuade us to change.  If logic did that then no one would smoke, non one would speed, we would all eat right and exercise everyday.  But with a purposeful authentic story you can influence behaviour…just like Sean Parker did.