In the early 90s a group of adventure-seeking, activist cyclists in San Francisco wanted to do something about the dire state of bike-car relationships in their city, so they decided to make their presence known by gathering at rush hour on the last Friday of the month for a group ride through downtown. Eventually their numbers swelled—attaining “critical mass”—so that they couldn’t be overlooked by drivers, or city officials. The Critical Mass ride, now celebrating 28 boisterous years in SF, has become a global movement. And bike lanes, among many other safety considerations for cyclists in the city, have greatly improved.
While this leaderless “organized coincidence” is not the strategy model I’m looking for (my sights are set higher on long-term planning and leadership), the idea behind Critical Mass has something to offer those wishing to propel an idea, or a movement.
When developing a strategic communications plan, one of the most important factors is to create enough condensed momentum to be impossible to miss, even in heavy traffic.
A one-off event or social media campaign, even if well-produced, probably won’t achieve sufficient swell to gain the attention you’re imagining. Instead, layer up your communications elements, one upon the other, to achieve critical mass.
Ask yourself: Do you have an influencer crew to vault your public relations? Would a crowdfunding initiative bring fresh air to a long-term campaign? Are events part of your strategy? Is there a trend you can pin your project to? (Think Earth Day or the first day of ski season.) Have you considered content marketing or earned media to buoy your traditional advertising? Are you planning these things to launch together in a concentrated time period?
When you are rolling on all relevant channels, so that your audience can engage with you at every intersection they cross, you won’t just be hard to ignore. Your movement will be contagious.
Photo credit: Chris Carlsson @ Critical Mass in Santiago, Chile with 10,000 friends.