Porter Novelli

Note: The following is a guest post from Bill Novelli, the first in a series based on his comments from a co-convening of Social Capital and Points of Light. Most of the attendees were corporate execs, with a smattering of nonprofit execs included. The event was a joint session with Social Capital and Points of Light that sought to understand how to approach partnerships and where to go from there. It took place in Alexandria, VA on Feb. 23. You can read the introduction to the post here, part one of the series here and part two of the series here.

Persuasion skills among partners will improve and be more effective at social behavior

Bill NovelliI started my career in marketing at Unilever, went to a big ad agency and later began to apply marketing to social change. At first I focused on individual behaviors, but came to realize that to create sustainable social change, you have to also focus on behavior at broader levels; that is, on social norms and expectations. So we need to create behavior change at two levels.

One is on a broad environmental scale, so that appropriate behavior is seen as normative behavior. This means influencing the environment in which people actually live and work and play. Take world-wide non-communicable diseases, for example. We want healthy behaviors related to good nutrition, not smoking and physical activity to be seen and widely accepted as the normal thing to do. The most effective tools for achieving this, I believe, are policy, technology and media,

The second level is to focus on people’s individual behaviors: to inform, educate and persuade them to take the proper steps to good health. This usually requires community level work, through teachers, employers, parents, clergy and other interpersonal channels.

These two levels – environmental and individual change – aren’t options and they aren’t sequential. They are synergistic and need to be planned and pursued that way.

I see partnerships and programs becoming more skilled at the practices and tools of social persuasion, and as we get better and more effective, the strategies, messages and evaluations for one issue can be studied and applied to other programs and interventions.

This is a promising area for consumer research and for communications, and companies can bring a lot to the table.