As an entrepreneur, strategic communications professional, and policy wonk, I've worked on social innovations in the for-profit and non-profit world, helping to develop campaigns and solutions to social and natural resource challenges.

I'm constantly tracking and analyzing what make us as humans, inspired to act and respond to new ideas. This is where I share my thoughts and notes. 


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Inspired to Act: People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it

Even if I'm not writing about it here, I'm always thinking about and trying to understand why and how people are inspired to act. Some might think that this kind of thinking or approach to communications, inspiring people to act, is limited to advocacy or political communications. In fact, it's really a fundamental human pursuit - how do we best communicate with someone to inspire them to act, to listen to us, to do something, whether it's buy a product or vote for a candidate, or simply just respond to our thoughts in a conversation. 

Given that the above TED Talk by Simon Sinek has been viewed at least 25 million times since it was given in 2009 (25.6 million times as calculated by TED), there are a lot of people who want to know why people respond to certain message, and how to inspire people to act. And it makes sense. Whether in business or in our personal life, most of us want to get someone to react to our thoughts and or our products. And though I'm a bit behind the curve in noticing this video, the idea of "why" you do somethiSave & Closeng is starting to really reach a lot of people. 

I've been seeing a lot of people on Facebook and other social media, specifically those into inspirational speakers and life coaching, pointing to one question for others to reflect on: What is your why? This seems to be all radiating from the book and website Start with Why, by Simon Sinek. The same Simon Sinek from the 2009 TED talk. 

Most importantly in the context of my writings and reflections here, when developing communications plans for businesses or organizations, it's so essential that you start with knowing "why" you are doing whatever it is that you are doing. This is the basic principal of my strategic communications approach. If you don't know your why, then your what is without purpose. All the yelling from the mountain top won't result in acheiving your ultimate goal. Even if it requires taking two steps back to answer that question in your product or campaign planning, it'll be worth it. Once you find your why, you'll be inspired to act, and so will your audience. 


Kenya, a rising climate solution and energy powerhouse 

Kenya Power maintenance teams in Nairobi work on repairing transmission lines as weekday traffic moves into the city. Photo credit: Michelle Wallace (All rights reserved)

Kenya now ranks as the 6th most innovative emerging market for renewable and clean energy investment, according to the 2015 Climatescope report released by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The report which "evaluates clean energy activity in 55 emerging markets in Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean," ranked only China, Brazil, Chile and South Africa ahead of Kenya.

Considered by many to be on the front lines of the world's most pressing challenges - terrorism, climate change, energy poverty - Kenya is also know for being one of the most dynamic and innovative emerging markets in the world.  

As 60 Minutes recently pointed out, Kenyan based off-grid small scale solar companies like M-Kopa have been turning heads globally with mobile pay-as-you-go models that can scale quickly to meet the demand where the grid isn't reaching. At the same time, Kenya is increasing on-grid utility scale renewable generation across a mix of generation types, primarily in geothermal and wind. Geothermal production has long been part of Kenya's energy backbone and the country recently overtook Japan this past December, becoming the eighth-largest producer globally of geothermal energy.

Diving into the details of the report, the evaluation of Kenya's position is extremely positive considering it's only second on the continent to South Africa, the second largest economy in sub-Saharan Africa behind Nigeria. The report points out that "Kenya has made significant progress in increasing electricity access by extending the grid and off-grid projects (both diesel and renewable). As a result, electrification rates have nearly doubled since 2010, to 35% by end-2014." According to the report, Kenya has even been on the verge of a net metering law, essential to the growth of small-scale residential energy applications. 

Bloomberg New Energy Finance's Visulization Showcase highlights interesting top-level trends from the last Climatescope Report.

Concerning for Kenya and sub-Saharan Africa however, is Climatescope's assertion that continent-wide clean energy investment dipped as a result of delays impeding projects from reaching financial close. Looking at the numbers this may be the case for the rest of the continent, but Kenya saw investment increase in the last year. Project delays and barriers to closing deals may continue to be an Achilles heel. However, small-scale and off-grid renewables folks might not be as susceptible as their on-grid larger scale counter parts. 

Kenya's position in the Climatescope report should be taken as another indicator that it remains the East African nation best positioned to confront "natural security" issues - energy, climate, resource, and national security issues - with innovative market-driven clean energy solutions. When it fulfills this promise, and clears the roadblocks to energy security, then it will truly be known as a powerhouse.  


Paid, Owned, Earned - Know the Difference


Another great post and image from the team at Econsultancy. Read the original post: What’s the difference between paid, owned and earned media?


Thinking Visually: Strategy From Start to Finish

View the larger version of the infographic from the folks at Econsultancy

Successful campaigns and communications are all about design, from start to finish.

While "graphic design" is what most people think when they hear the word "design", the process of designing for the purpose of communicating requires strategy from start to finish. A successfully graphically designed end product, whether an image or a social media campaign, is always the child of strategic design at the start.

This holistic view is at the heart of the post Why Smart Companies Should Put Design First from Visage, the new product from infographics leader Column Five Media

And here's an important reason to follow their advice, the direct correlation between good design and bottom line impact:

Good design is more than just a superficial aesthetic consideration or passing trend. New research by the Design Management Institute and Motiv shows that adopting design-centric thinking might actually impact your business’ bottom line in a major way.

According to the study, design-driven companies over the last 10 years have outperformed the S&P 500 by 228%.

When it comes to successful graphic design here are some great tips from Visage in a featured post on HubSpot Before & After: Turning Mediocre Design Into Effective Visual Communication.  

Strategy is Elemental

Econsultancy's infographic featured above, The Periodic Table of Marketing, gives you a look at all the building blocks for a successful campaign and the lifecycle is represented by all of the elements needed from start to finish. All of that and it makes thinking about all of the pieces of strategic content marketing fun. 

At the same time, they offer some important advice in the infographic, about successful Content Marketing Campaigns, providing A Seven-Step Guide to Success. The first step, "Take some time to define strategy."

Here's the original blog post from Econsultancy which offers even more great advice.

A seven-step guide to success (from Econsultancy)

1. Take some time to define a strategy.

2. Figure out the formats you plan on using.

3. Think about the content types that will appeal to your audience. Do your research. Brainstorm ideas. Create.

4. Share your content across the key content distribution / social platforms.

5. Track the key metrics, and map these to your goals.

6. Be aware of the main sharing triggers. Be sure to work the emotions.

7. Always double check your work. 


Inspired to Act: The Next Generation of America

Successfully motivating people to react to a cause, contribute money, or lend their support to your effort is like solving a math equation. When you add it up correctly, you increase your chance of inspiring people to act.

I'd offer the equation looks something like this:

Target audience(s) + clarity/resonance of message + quality of delivery/creativity + channel(s)/method(s) of delivery + ease of meaningful response/response system  = volume of inspired action

As American political campaigns have proven in the last decade, understanding demographics and trends is essential if you want to inspire people to donate money. How and why is your audience giving and reacting?

The video above was published in April of 2014, but it summarizes the The Next Generation of American Giving Report released last August by Blackbaud, the well known name in the non-profit software and solutions field.

The video focuses on the first part of the equation and the adage: know your audience. The video is a great introduction to the report and the ideas of thinking about communicating with your supporters and audiences in a strategic way. Most importantly, it gives real data on how people react to non-profit appeals for support based on age segmentation.

And this report shouldn't be considered applicable only to "giving" to a non-profit; there is clear cross over for social enterprise and cause marketing strategic planning (for an additional layer of analytics on changing audiences in America check out the PEW Research Center's great new online interactive report titled "The Next America" published in April of 2014). 

Blackbaud is looking to get leads for the download of the report, so I won't undercut them by posting it here - you can download it on their site. It's a great read and worth it. 

If you want some of the really interesting top level information, the report is also summarized by a well done interactive infographic. Finally, I've included below The 10 Key Findings of the Report, though the in-depth research and content of the report is much more informative than just the summarized items here:

1. Most Americans give. Matures are the most generous generation. A greater percentage of Matures give and they support a greater number of causes than younger generations. On average, individual Mature donors also give more money to the causes they support.

2. Baby Boomers will exert an outsized influence on charitable giving for the foreseeable future. Representing roughly one-third of all adults who give, Boomers contribute 43 percent of all the dollars donated.

3. Most donors across all age groups do not plan to expand their giving in the coming year.

Multichannel is the new normal. While all generations are multi-channel in their communications habits, the ideal mix varies from generation to generation.

Direct mail is far from dead, but it also won’t last forever. Generations Y and X are far more likely to give online, and as many Baby Boomers say they give online as via direct mail.

Generation Y donors have distinct priorities and preferences with regard to causes they support. Notably, they are far more likely to demand accountability and transparency than older donors.

The value of some channels (e.g. social media), is undervalued if measured by transaction metrics, as opposed to by engagement.

Among transaction channels, the future looks cloudy for telemarketing and giving via SMS/text.

Peer-to-peer fundraising and crowdfunding, on the other hand, appear to have promising futures as fundraising strategies.

Nearly half of those who give engage with causes in ways other than making donations. 

Finally, connected to the report is Blackbaud's Index, which they describe as:

"a great fundraising resource that brings you the most up-to-date information on charitable giving today. Tracking approximately $13 billion in US-based charitable giving, the Index is updated on the first of each month and is based on year-over-year percent changes. Featuring overall and online giving, the Index can be viewed by size and subsets of the nonprofit industry."

 I've embedded the live widget for the Blackbaud Index below to play with: