Let’s assume you have defined your differentiating mission and your heart-warming vision of what the community will look like if you fulfill your mission (Letter #1). Let’s assume you have set a challenging and measurable goal of how much more of mission you want to fulfill in the next three years, and have invested some thought in identifying the strategic focus areas that will enable your organization to achieve those goals (Letter #2). Now what do you do?
One powerful way of getting people to do something that is strategically relevant to your capacity building goals is to publicize your mission, vision, goal, strategies and success stories every chance you get, in writings, in conversations, and in meetings, so that everyone hears and sees the message, every month, month after month, until they remember it, believe it, internalize it, and start acting on it.
I was fortunate to have learned about the power of persistent publicity early in my career in Procter and Gamble. P&G’s mission was to produce superior quality household products at a competitive price. Art Spinnanger almost single handedly was enabling P&G to produce our products at a competitive price in the early 1960s when I joined P&G. His mission was to get everyone that was involved in P&G’s product supply system to consciously think about the methods they were using to do their work.
One of the strategies of his Methods Program was the Elimination Approach. The strategy was to ask yourself and others the following question about every task you perform: “If it were not for what basic cause, this task could be eliminated.” If you could not identify the basic cause, eliminate that task from the work that you needed to do.
Every time I was in a departmental meeting with Art, he never failed to bring up P&G’s mission, his Methods Program and the Elimination Approach. Every time I saw Art personally, he would ask me about my work, would listen intently, and when he didn’t clearly understand why I was doing something, would ask his “basic cause” question. He’d send me brochures on methods improvement strategies. He would conduct training workshops every month. And he broadly distributed a monthly newsletter about the Methods Program and its successes.
It wasn’t long before I remembered Art’s message, believed it, internalized it and acted on it. Thousands of people in P&G’s product supply divisions had the same experience that I had, enabling P&G to continually eliminate every task and report that no longer had a basic cause. I have not seen Art, or worked in P&G’s product supply divisions, for 35 years. Yet I still remember Art, his mission, strategies, and the wording of his “basic cause” question that helped P&G produce its products at a competitive price. Art’s approach convinced me of the Power of Persistent Publicity.
The power of persistent publicity is not limited to mobilizing employees. When I left P&G in 1994, I started up a financial services businesses targeted at managers in P&G’s corporate headquarters. One of my strategies was to write and distribute a monthly advisory letter to P&G managers on the subject of personal financial planning and investment strategies.
In 1996, an independent audit concluded that I, Merrill Lynch and another local firm, were the three leading providers of financial services to P&G managers. An investment of less than 8 hours/month in persistent publicity helped me to compete with large firms in Cincinnati, while I was operating out of an extra bedroom in my home in Sedona, Arizona. Persistent publicity is a highly effective community outreach and marketing strategy.
In 1999, I joined the Orange County SCORE Chapter, which consists of about 80 volunteers who counsel individuals on how to start up or build a more successful business. Despite SCORE’s three month training program, I had a difficult time getting clients to come to me for follow-on sessions. Others in the chapter had similar problems.
The national office in Washington D.C. told me that our chapter excelled in many areas, but was in the bottom quartile nationally in our percentage of follow-on sessions. They gave me the contact information for the ten chapters with the highest follow-on session percentage. I interviewed these chapters to find out how they did that. I tested some of the strategies in my own counseling practice, and they helped me improve.
In the spring of 2000, I started sending a monthly E-mail to the chapter’s volunteers, publicizing my goal to double our percentage of follow-on sessions, and my vision of becoming an above average chapter. Every month, the letter described the success of a counseling strategy that a SCORE volunteer was using to get above average follow-on rates. Every month, the letter reported the chapter’s and each counselor’s follow-on performance, and reminded them of the six month performance contest that we were running.
Every six months, the contest winners received their awards at a chapter meeting. After four months, nothing happened. But then things started to move. After 30 months, the chapters follow-on rate tripled, putting us in the top quartile nationally, while delivering a 65% increase in the chapters counseling business. An investment of less than 8 hours/month in persistent publicity helped our SCORE chapter achieve these very significant capacity improvements.
Persistent publicity has proven itself to be an effective mobilizer of strategically relevant capacity building action by employees, volunteers, and in the community where you want to succeed.