Call for Evangelizing in 2015

This is not, I repeat, not, a tired and ill-fated New Year’s Resolution. Like so many Ab Blasters and Grapefruit Diets relegated to the trash heap of self-improvement history, I am giving up that convention for the Open Call. I’d like to start 2015 by challenging my colleagues in progressive communications to “get religion” and start evangelizing. Before you wonder what happened to me over the break, let me explain….

I’ve rediscovered a very useful model for organizing the personae that we – progressive communicators – need to succeed. In Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point, he describes three archetypes essential for a successful business, but these models apply to change-oriented non profits as well. He refers to them as Connectors, Mavens and Salespeople. You may remember that Connectors bring people together, develop and nurture meaningful partnerships and grow the enterprise through strategic connections. Mavens are the deep content experts, often in the nonprofit world the program experts and policy wonks. In our world, the Salespeople must embody the mission and communicate messages with passion and influence.

Let’s face it: we are Maven rich, often well supplied with Connectors, but almost never have the Salespeople. To thrive as a social enterprise, grantees and other social purpose organizations need to have all three personas within their leadership and stakeholder structure, but they rarely do. And unfortunately among my clients, colleagues and peers, Salespeople and their skills are underappreciated and occasionally treated disdainfully. This must change.

Let’s agree to get over this. Social movements require an informed and engaged public, but more than ever they require Evangelists. Here I do not mean people of faith, per se, although some are outstanding. Evangelists in this context do not require religious fervor, but they need the passion and humanity that good preachers have. These are the Salespeople for social change, and we need them. People follow such leaders, and together, they make movements.

Can we admit to ourselves that we have too heavily relied on the Mavens and the expertise they have to make the case through data collection and dissemination? The Mavens are in fact the experts, but with all due respect, they rarely have the rhetorical skills or personalities to allow them succeed in this role. What if we began to value style as well as substance? We all know the facts alone don’t move people. How many deadly PowerPoint presentations have we all endured with slide after slide of data and no compelling message, strategic leadership and call-to-action?

So back to my challenge. A “come to Jennifer” moment, if you will. Now that I’ve beaten this metaphor into submission, I’m asking for your help. Let’s commit to making our clients, grantees and partners more effective in building, sustaining and leveraging the power of social movements. We can do this if we more strategically and systematically invest in finding and developing Sales skills and enabling Evangelizers. Join me?