Svetlana Sverchkova on Communication on TOP Forum in Davos


On return from Davos, Switzerland, where the World Communication Forum "Communication on TOP" was held, Svetlana Sverchkova, Managing Director of Mainstream, shares her impressions in a special article for MMR.

To me the Forum seemed quite traditional; however, the organizers managed to brighten up the ordinary flow of presentations with certain innovation. Each participant had on his/her table three signs with Like, Share, and Comment buttons. One could use them in discussions or just vote for an opinion they liked. Participants were mostly from Europe, though many of the guests came from Russia where the Forum became very popular during the four years it had been held.

One of the most interesting speakers, in my opinion, was Dr. Leandro Herrero, Managing Partner of Viral Change Global LLP who later in a private talk mentioned his visit to Ukraine as well as his acquaintance with some Ukrainian business officials.

Dr. Herrero develops and promotes the theory of Viral Change. According to his theory, traditional approach to communications is not efficient and has a very insignificant influence on the behavior of target groups. A so-called push-effect, which consists of command, information, hierarchical channels, cascade down communication, and awareness/training should be replaced by a pull-effect. Main components of the pull-effect are behaviors, social influence, informal network, stories, and distributed leadership.

Now let’s look at some examples. According to the given statistics, government has the lowest level of public trust — 29%. 30% of people trust CEOs and business in general, 55% trust employees of the company, 55% trust experts, and the most interesting group — which has most credit and to which this article is dedicated — "people like us". 60% of general public trust people just like them.

Every community is a so-called clan or tribe. A tribe is a group of employees, your team at work, that you spend most of your time with, students of the same academic group, etc.

Dr. Herrero compares information distribution pattern in such a tribe to a virus. He thinks there is no big difference in mechanism of spreading a biological virus, viral idea, behavioral virus or social virus. The logic is the same. "You, PR-specialists, work in a contagious business, not a broadcasting one. People like us are the key segment of influence," — Dr.Herrero says.

That is the reason why companies are to take into consideration the question of their target audience: How other people like me react to this? What do they say, what do they think about a product/service, what do they recommend?

Dr.Herrero believes that behavioral changes should be started in small groups of people, not as a mass communication attack on all the target audiences. In every tribe, be it an employees group, public organization or just a self-organizing community, there is always a segment of more active, more influential, and highly connected people. It’s them who ensure the most effective communication for any community. Due to existence of such leaders — the most active and influential members of the group — it is possible to change the behavior of the whole tribe.

10 principles to remember while working on a behavioral change of a group:

  1. There is no change unless there is behavioral change
  2. Communication is not change
  3. Cultures are not created by training
  4. Change behaviors, get culture
  5. For every PUSH, orchestrate a PULL
  6. Triggering behaviors (‘nudge’, one off events) is the easy part. Change is scaled up behavioral change
  7. Peer-to-peer (one of us, people like me, tribal) influence has a greater power than hierarchical
  8. Change, transformation is a behavioral epidemic, not an information tsunami
  9. Employee engagement is not employee bombardment
  10. Behaviors x peer-to-peer x informal social networks x stories x backstage leadership = Viral Change

In conclusion, here are 10 of the most interesting statements of Communication on TOP in Davos:

  1. "If you believe PR is critical you have to forget of convenient, and raise the quality," — Paul Holmes.
  2. "The challenge is to teach official persons that PR is their job too," — Paul Holmes.
  3. "Global PR exists from client’s side," — Paul Holmes.
  4. "Communication is not change," — Dr. Leandro Herrero.
  5. "Activism is more vital than ambassadors because it brings actions!" — Dr. Leandro Herrero.
  6. "Focusing too much on digital we lose in human part," — from debate Value 2.0.
  7. "Media relations people are not PR people," — from debate Value 2.0.
  8. "HR is a tribe," — Dr. Herrero.
  9. "90% of online activity starts with search," — from panel discussion Place branding.
  10. "Do what you do, but do it better," — Stuart Bruce, DIN Forums Network.