Welcome! We want to talk to you about making cultural change in large organisations, and to do so we must discuss one particular technique that is used globally, but is seldom followed in organisations.
What’s the technique?
The technique is to use social media and word of mouth influence to help you get your message out and do your job for you, even while you sleep. We’ll use the example of a reuse programme, but this could apply to any kind of culture change in procurement, facilities, energy management, or the whole organisation.
Taking advantage of the cult of celebrity
The whole cult of celebrities is a bit weird, but demonstrates this technique perfectly. You've got these people who are just like me and you, they eat, sleep and breathe, and yet somehow they are at the centre of attention for a lot of people. Now, some of these people are highly talented, some of these people can sing their hearts out, and some of them can run really fast or with a ball at their feet. Some celebrities don’t even have a talent, and on the face of it they aren't any different, yet they become celebrities.
These people are held in high regard by others in their community, and this is good for salespeople and companies who want to sell their products. For advertising purposes, they know that these people are looked up to in some regard by their audience, and so if they endorse their product then they increase sales.
You can do the same in your organisation but in a much more authentic and meaningful way!
The best personal example of this is Michael Jordan. Warp It’s Founder, Daniel, recounts:
‘I remember the day in the early 90s when my dad showed us a VHS video of Michael Jordan doing these massive leaps on a basketball court. Basketball was a totally foreign concept to a lad from the North East of England, we weren’t even allowed to play anything else but football in PE at school!’
‘In that video, I really saw the athletic ability of Jordan, he was a freak of nature. It just suddenly seemed cool to play basketball, because this guy seemed really cool. From then on, I was obsessed with getting a pair of Nike Air Jordan trainers. For my 18th birthday my very generous neighbour actually got me a pair of Jordan Trainers, and these were really expensive back in the day. So, Michael Jordan's coolness rubbed off on me!’
Materialism is utterly meaningless in this example, however that whole influencer thing is very powerful.
Applications for your project
At the middle stage of a behaviour change project, when ‘the honeymoon is over’, the project can often do with a boost of action. Now whilst the cult of celebrity is a bit shallow and mostly does not even care about the actual performance of the product, you can actually turn this concept on its head in your organisation.
First, you’ll need to find authentic staff members who have already adopted your behaviour change programme and begin a dialogue with them. You are going to bring out their character, then publicise it!
You will have people in your organisation who are well regarded, well known, and who have done something that other people might admire. Whether they're widely known, or they're just known at the departmental level, they going to sell your behaviour change, or, you're going to sell your culture change to the rest of the staff through these people. In marketing terms, they are influencers, but they might not even know it!
You can apply this to any project within your organisation, but for reuse, you’re going to find the people who are avid reusers and well known around the estate or community.
By doing a staff profile on these people, and understanding why they use your reuse system (what benefits it brings them, how it makes their life easier, what their beliefs are, and why they support the reuse system). By exploring that in the medium of an interview or a case study, you can get a clear picture of why someone else should adopt your reuse programme or behaviour change.
The next step
You then publicise this content to the rest of the department, the building, the organisation, or even externally as part of a press release. If you do a nice interview with a case study of some sort around their behaviour, you can use that article to gain free publicity and get buy-in from the rest of the community.
Why are they going to buy it? There's a few reasons.
There are some people in your organisation who admire this person already in some way, perhaps they already have some relationship or rapport. They will read the piece because they know them and admire them, and want to know a little more about what they're doing, and subsequently that will influence their behaviour.
Another reason why some people might want to read this piece is because they would have heard about your reuse system and they want to know why and how other people are using it, so they'll read this piece for that purpose as well. They will think, "All right, this person is highly regarded on the estate and is well known and respected. So, if they're doing it, I should at least try it."
What’s the aim?
What you're trying to demonstrate with this case study is that reuse is easy, that everyone is doing it, and that it is the social norm. This social influence and pressure is all coming from this one case study. If done right, this piece can be highly influential. If it brings in, let’s say 30 more people into your reuse system, is is a really valuable, low cost, low energy thing to do for maximum impact.
Let us know how you get on!