How to Start a Movement

Getting from Idea to Activation

Photo Credit: Cody Aulidge

It begins with an idea. An inkling. A notion. A sentence that begins with, “What if…” fill in the blank. One big idea that has the power to change everything. The realization that what you are doing right now in this moment is futile or even harmful. That change, defiance of the status quo, is not just necessary, but imminent.

Share an idea with enough people enough times and suddenly the idea gains independence from its source. It develops a life of its own. Quickly it gains a shorthand, a referential name that when mentioned by those in the know, conveys meaning. Before you know it, and whether you like it or not, you’ve got a brand on your hands.

Brands are personified, so you’d better take the time to understand her personality, her values, her purpose. How will this brand make people feel? People rarely do anything they don’t feel something about, so this is often the most important part, the piece of the brand people forget because it doesn’t show up on the business card or the website.Making the brand meaning explicit means everyone can engage with it and understand it. Engagement and understanding are the foundation of any movement, the piece you have to get right if you want the airplane to fly.

Once you know what you’re saying, it’s easy to find the words to say it. What do you want people to hear? Empower people with the message they need to amplify the brand. Otherwise people will say anything they please, and, well, we know where that gets you — nowhere.

Helping people hear the right message means telling stories that bring it to life. That means finding storytellers and empowering them to speak on behalf of the movement, to become the voice of the brand. Nothing makes people feel more than stories they can relate to. No one likes being lectured to about facts and figures. We want to feel relevant, we want to feel heard. Unlocking narrative to carry your brand can create a groundswell of motivated people who raise their hand and say, Yes, I’m in.

Once your brand has a reputation, it’s time to take it to the next level. Convene your people. Help them feel how many of them are connected to your big idea, who have heard the stories, gotten the message. Now they are ready to do something about it. Personal experience is a powerful thing. Surrounded by people feeling the same way can move you to believe in something more deeply and fully, to place it ahead of other things you might need or want. Suddenly, for hundreds or thousands of people, your brand becomes a priority.

Capturing the momentum of experience is the critical mistake many marketers make when working to turn a brand into a movement. People want to feel that they are a part of something that will last, endure. They want to feel surrounded by a community of people who share their values and beliefs, and their conviction to be part of this big, important, ambitious idea. It’s up to you to create a container big enough to hold them. To help those with the commitment to do so self-identify as part of the tribe.

Once you’ve create a community, an inner circle of people connected by stories and experience, your tribe is ready to take action. Call them to arms with love and devotion, and they will ask what they can do for your movement. Raise money? You bet! Donate money? No problem! Buy products? Just tell me where. Stand in protest? Volunteer? A tribe mobilized by purpose and shared conviction is unstoppable. Together, they can accomplish anything. Together, they will create a movement of such momentum that it will make your dreams come true. Your tribe will turn your inkling, your tiny idea that once upon a time seemed like a far off place, into reality.

Previously published by Heptagon Productions

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