How Research-Driven Organizations Become Thought Leaders

Baby Archie is Your Baby

I love starting my week with a jolt.

And a list member provided one (edited lightly and published here with permission), in response to my post last week about the recent UN biodiversity and ecosystem services assessment and the UN’s failure (so far) to create a marketing campaign around it:

What irritates me is that they don’t pick up on the obvious. Why not develop something on “The World Baby Archie Will Inherit?” Baby Archie is a collective baby. New babies trump everything in everyone’s life, unless they’re in a war zone. Do something about the world we want for Archie — when he’s 20, what’s gonna be happening?

Did they talk to anybody that knows how to publicize and move markets? Anybody in the film world, the music world, the entertainment world, the religious world etc. etc. etc.? There are people who know how to do this and we are too snobby to seek their advice and deploy their acumen. Did they release this report with suggested sermons that could be used in churches? Did they engage rabbis? Did they do anything interfaith? Did they look at any of the ways that our society actually comes together en mass? i.e. entertainment and sports? Do they not see that these are the ways that human beings do come together en masse?

I am just so sick so terribly sick after over 30 years in the field of the way that scientists are always trying to communicate with other scientists and it’s always gloom and doom and it’s always to trying to reach “the public” whatever the hell that is. They never segment the market, they don’t go deep, they don’t take a minute to actually figure out what the f$&@k they can do — there are levers if somebody would use them. They have to be hitting people in their intimate spaces as well as their public spaces. The days of getting a great science story in the New York Times and having it travel via Associated Press throughout the world are dead and gone. Leo DiCaprio George Clooney Meryl Streep Serena Stephen Curry New York Fashion week people — did anybody take the time to try to get anybody sexy to be a spokesperson or was it all just look at this data about how we’re all going to hell in a hand basket and really soak that in your psyche on a sunny day when you’re super busy.

I think there’s a big class issue to this. The audience is always Policy People at the highest levels that need to be changed and the people at Davos who sit around and drink white wine and show their erudition and tut tut tut and don’t talk to the people who have dirt under their fingernails and may not have all their teeth and maybe they didn’t go to college but God Damn do they know how to deliver carbon sequestration in our grasslands etc.

Amen. This put me in mind of Seth Godin’s “Marketing in Four Steps”:

The first step is to invent a thing worth making, a story worth telling, a contribution worth talking about.

The second step is to design and build it in a way that people will actually benefit from and care about.

The third one is the one everyone gets all excited about. This is the step where you tell the story to the right people in the right way.

The last step is so often overlooked: The part where you show up, regularly, consistently and generously, for years and years, to organize and lead and build confidence in the change you seek to make.

The UN report — like most research and data report- and paper-based communications — took only the third step. Maybe.

Takeaway: Baby Archie is your baby. Stop “communicating research and data” and figure out how to use opportunities like him — and all the other Baby Archies the world serves up and you complain are eclipsing your far more important messages — to spread your ideas.