Theory of Relate(ivity) – Part One


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At the end of the day, it’s relationships that matter most. Right?

Be it in business, in one’s personal life, politics, or otherwise – the best relationships (when managed well) keep you grounded and honest. They offer learning experiences. They are influential and provide support in unusual ways that overtime can sustain even the toughest of challenges.

Casual, social, formal or personal – the connections that people make start with how they relate to one another or to a cause, an issue, a religion, a culture, a belief, a principle or even to a company.

Seven billion actions.

I’ve had many great learning experiences over the past year but none greater than my role as an adviser to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

In February, I was part of a small group of professionals invited to help the UNFPA develop a communication campaign that would raise awareness and inspire people to take action around the many issues associated with global population reaching the staggering milestone of seven billion people.

As outlined in a previous post, seven billion is a big number. It’s a number that most people simply can’t grasp nor relate to.

In population terms, however, there are many harsh realities that impact people in one form or another – every day. These realities concern employment, health, safety, adequate and affordable access to education, energy, food, water and housing (among other things).

The campaign is called 7 Billion Actions and is driven by a desire to engage people, corporations and governments in a movement to address issues of humanity. To support this, we developed an environment that would be educational and allow people to share their individual stories, challenges, feelings and commitments to take action on issues – at a local and global level.

Through combining education and the shared experiences of others, we felt that we could indeed inspire a movement that would bring with it positive change. Once people relate to an issue on an emotional, intellectual and experiential level – amazing things can happen. Further to this, when people can see the possibilities and the benefits of change – the power of “relate” can be transformative.

The use of social media is significant in this campaign.

Since world population reached seven billion on the ceremonial day of October 31st, the community developed on facebook has grown to 11,600 people (increasing by hundreds per day) and more than 630 stories from people around the world have been shared and hundreds of blogs and stories from mainstream media have been produced. Many corporations, media companies and NGOs are also supporting the effort in direct and meaningful ways.

Although it’s too early to declare success of the campaign in creating a movement, the early signs are inspiring. As population will continue to grow at an extremely high rate, the cadence of this campaign and the issues associated with it will continue to be important for months and years to come.

The lessons of this experience have been incredibly clarifying to me.

The world is highly interconnected thanks to the many innovations and advancements in technology, information management and “people-powered” social media. Its clear that people will and want to engage with others (including companies) on issues, causes, products, solutions (or otherwise) that they can relate to.

Relate is the key word.

With all the noise surrounding people today, capturing and sustaining attention and engagement requires having a keen understanding of what people care about. With an understanding of what people care about (i.e. your desired audience) and how to relate to them, then true and meaningful engagement can take place.

The ability to relate is a core principle in the art and science of influence that holds true in business, personal and political environments. It sets the tone for building trust and engagement.

It pretty fundamental, really.

(Part two of the post will focus on relationships and influence)

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Don Bulmer
Royal Dutch Shell
Don Bulmer is Vice President of Communication Strategy at Royal Dutch Shell.


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