Archive for August, 2009

How many people does it take to run a Community Noticeboard?

August 27, 2009

No, I’m not about to start recounting a traditional joke I heard in the pub, but this story could easily become one, an illustration of how well-meaning bureaucracy can disempower and crush the initiative and spontaneity out of staff as well as alienate their customers.

I board my train at Preston Park station in Brighton to head up to the TCC office in Croydon. Travelling to meet clients all over the country, I often buy extra tickets at Southern’s ticket office.

Bob is one of those great railway staff who become a fixture in commuters daily lives. He posts a regular “thought for the week” on the ticket office screen so all commuters can read it. The sort of harmless common sense folk wisdom that you get in magazines like Reader’s Digest and which often makes you smile as you start a long day.

Things like: “What you say means nothing, how you say it means everything” and “Its nice to be important, but more important to be nice”.

Two years ago there was a local uproar when a new manager made him take it down. A campaign by articulate Brighton to London commuters secured a reinstatement – a local victory for people power.

But clearly bureaucracy does not give up, for today I asked Bob why his sign on his perspex screen had gone again. He explained that he had been asked to transfer it to a “Community Noticeboard” elsewhere in the station.

I am all in favour of there being a community noticeboard. The more the merrier for community groups to promote their activities and keep us informed. However I do not think that taking a piece of individual initiative and shoe-horning it into a more formal space is the right approach.

So now we have a situation where an uplifting message, best placed in to cheer up a commuter at the start of the day is lost amongst the perfectly proper notices for events that a commuter is probably more likely to read on their way out of the station in the evening. In other words the right message is now going through the wrong communications channel. A little common sense, as is often set out in Bob’s thoughts for the week, is what is really required here.

Clearly there should be overall guidelines for any member of staff in a large organisation, but what any large impersonal organisation most needs is front-line staff who are human and who demonstrate to the public every day that it is made up of real people who are just like them. The trick for any forward looking organisation that wishes to show genuine empathy with its customers is to create a framework and tools and then let go. This is important not just for front-line staff, but also for campaigns involving health and environmental champions or advocates in the community. Feedback mechanisms are also important to staff who communicate with customers, but this should not be proscriptive, but instead should be helpful.

“Thought for the week” was the personal relationship building process between the Bob and his customers. This is exactly what staff should be trained to do. The hand-written message and the fact it belonged to the member of staff demonstrates authenticity and just a little individuality.

Organisations in future will need more of that, not less!

This Blog posting was written by Jonathan Upton, Chairman of  The Campaign Company


Values First?

August 21, 2009

When we first came across Values Modes it chimed with all our learning from our social marketing and community cohesion work. Why are some people so receptive to certain messages and others not? Why are polling organisations still using occupation as the only way of segmenting the populations, when two C1s don’t necessarily think alike? Why do so many organisations believe that two people who buy the same car have the same values when real life experience tells us otherwise? Values Modes gives us the answers and we wanted to find out more.

Jonathan picked up the phone and a week later in walks Pat Dade from Cultural Dynamics. Pat is not your average guy. He grew up in Oregon but has spent much of his life living in the east end of London. Pat and his colleague, Les Higgins, have spent around 30 years asking thousands of questions of tens of thousands of people. They have worked for FTSE 100 companies, leading charities, and government departments.

Pat and Les have built their Value Modes methodology on a strong theoretical framework based on recognized and evidenced theories of motivation within modern psychology and translate that through programme design into effective communications, thus recognizing the importance of evidenced evaluation and an increasing requirement for social return on investment and value for money in these difficult times.

We listened to Pat intently, nodding periodically as his methodology and insight crystallised our thinking. Pat confessed that he was equally inspired by our work and a short time later a new partnership began.

The simple insight of Cultural Dynamics is that if you want to change or reinforce behaviour you have to start by understanding values. These values can change slowly over time, but more importantly once you understand values you can understand current motivations and that is the gold dust of all behaviour change work. Two people who exhibit the same behaviour may do so for very different reasons. Thus understanding these different values and motivations enables one to communicate in a much more effective way that is resonant with the emotions of the various groups you might be aiming at.

So what are these values? At its simplest the Cultural Dynamics model breaks the population down in to three distinct groups. These are pioneers, prospectors, and settlers.

  • Pioneers are inner directed. For them the world is about self actualisation, learning, growing, and experiencing new things. They embrace change and have large social networks.
  • Prospectors are outer directed, thinking more about their status and finance. They want to be seen in the right places and buy in to the latest trends.
  • Settlers on the other hand are nostalgic about the past, fearful of change and pessimistic about the future. Their home is their castle and they have the smallest social networks, often existing of very little beyond family.

This helps us understand why people might exhibit the same behaviour but have different motivations. Take the example of someone buying a Toyota Prius. A pioneer might by motivated by the environmental benefits, a prospector by the association with the many Hollywood celebrities that have bought one, and a settler may want to buy one for the fuel economy.

Of course it gets more complicated, it always does! Each of the three groups divides in to four segments, making a total of 12 segments. We are now working with Pat and Les to adapt their insight to the different environments we work in. We are now working with a number of local government clients utilizing this form of segmentation system to fine tune community cohesion work and it is also being used on behalf of a local NHS client and enabling us to make sure their website properly engages their local population.

Value Modes provides an opportunity to develop deeper insight than traditional demographic segmentation and even standard psychographic measurement tools that are based only on purchasing behaviour rather than underlying values. In a future posting we will discuss the implications of this in more detail.