How to win hearts, minds and the Internet: The Greta Thunberg Way

If you observe Greta's speeches, she smartly uses provocation to grab the attention of those that matter.

How to win hearts, minds and the Internet: The Greta Thunberg Way
By Ashok Lalla

Unless you are living under a rock or have taken a social media hiatus, you would have heard about 16-year old Greta Thunberg. And her trip to New York City and her forceful speech at the United Nations. This article is not about what she said or what she stands for or seeks, but is a collection of tips gleaned from her approach and what I think needs to be done to win hearts and minds (and maybe even the Internet) just as Greta has been doing.
1. Use facts
A fact-based narrative will always have stronger legs and resonate more effectively than one largely made of fluff or merely opinion. Greta got this premise right and everything she says has facts central to the narrative.

2. Emotion and passion
It is perfectly alright to let one's emotions, passion and even vulnerability come through in what one does and says. It improves one's conviction and the believability of what one says. Bland and emotionless will usually fall flat.
3. Provocation gets attention
If you observe Greta's speeches, she smartly uses provocation to grab the attention of those that matter. Framing her speech at the UN around the "How dare you" was provocative, without being whiny or overly aggressive.
4. Don't let your constraints constrain you
In Greta's case, she is just a schoolgirl of 16. With no great subject matter expertise. Neither the visible backing of a large entity or vast amounts of money. None of these held her back.
5. Singular narrative counts
More than the audience, it is the creator of a message that gets bored of it and so keeps changing it frequently. We see this even with advertising campaigns. The audience in contrast sees and interacts with a message far less. And so, holding onto a singular narrative is imperative to make it hit home.
6. People as media
The real power of a message comes from people, everyday people who the message resonates with, and who choose to spread the message further, to and through their own networks. This is what can turn an idea into an avalanche, much like we have seen with Greta's messages.
7. Substance over style
Cutting out the fluff and powder puffery and other things that can distract from the message is important. Playing to the galleries maybe entertaining but does not usually create any real enduring value.
8. Progress the narrative
However powerful the initial narrative and impactful it may have been, if one does not build on the narrative, it is likely to lose steam. Having a plan around a narrative build-up is important to continue to create an impact.
9. Solutions, beyond just stating the problem
What Greta has done wonderfully is to state the problem around climate change and its impact on the world and its future. Naturally, she is not a climate expert or scientist and so is continually highlighting the problem alone. At some point, speaking about solutions will be important too to turn talk into action on the ground.
10. From attention to actionable plans
To truly create a lasting impact, the attention created needs to be channeled into concrete actionable plans. By experts who know the subject well. And perhaps relayed through the voice and passion of a Greta.
11. Let others co-own and grow your story
Nothing drives engagement and commitment to an idea like the feeling of ownership does. It is important therefore to build one's cohorts around the themes of the core idea and let them weave your story into the tapestry of their own. That is a great way to keep an idea alive and thriving.
12. Move from optics to impact
There is nothing like real and measured results that truly shows the power of an idea and wins the minds and hearts of people. Too often we see ideas sizzle thanks to the optics created around them, only to fizzle out later when the air goes out of the ideas.
13. Walk your talk
Having an idea or story that captures the public's imagination is wonderful. But with the glare of attention and applause, comes a responsibility to truly walk one's talk. Else, people will lose interest as they start questioning the real commitment to the idea and its growth.
14. Recognize that the bigger the glory, the harsher the glare
Celebrity comes with a price and that is the attendant gaze of people and often the unwanted attention of detractors and trolls. I have already spotted people trolling Greta for her apparent food choices with pictures that show several items packed in single-use plastic.
15. Mind your minders
While Greta may have started out on her own based on an interest or concern of hers regarding the harmful effects of climate change, it is very likely that today she is being mentored and even managed in terms of what she says, how she says it, to whom and where. Even Presidents and corporate leaders have minders and coaches so that is not unusual. What is important though is being careful with the narrative itself and being watchful of being used to serve vested interests. While in the short term the rewards of getting this support maybe great, over time it is likely to erode the very seed from which the passion arose, and from which the narrative took root and then took wings.

( The writer is an independent digital business advisor. Views expressed are personal.)

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