Nedra is a social marketing consultant, author and speaker who works with nonprofits and government agencies for positive health and social change using social media, transmedia storytelling and entertainment education approaches at Weinreich Communications.Email me
What are the differences between an individual's personality and that of an organization?Thanks so much to Rohit for sharing his insights. You can download the introduction to Personality Not Included for a preview of what you can expect from the book. Is it time for you to think about your organization's personality?
This is a really good question and one that I spend a part of Chapter 1 focusing on. The main reason is that we all have a shared idea of what individual personality means. It usually relates to a four letter rating from a test like Meyers-Briggs, and conjures up images of multiple choices test online. The personality of an organization is something that I try to define as much deeper. It is the unique, authentic and talkable soul of a company.
How does an organization go about creating a personality for itself?
You're really asking the right questions here! This, to a degree is what the whole book is about. A quick snapshot of steps basically comes from my overall outline of the book:
Step 1 - Understand why organizations lose their personality
Step 2 - Look at your accidental spokespeople to see who speaks for your brand
Step 3 - Define your personality using a formula from the book
Step 4 - Create and tell your backstory
Step 5 - Overcome the barriers or roadblocks
Step 6 - Find and use your personality moments
There are other lessons in there, but that's the snapshot view.
Are there special considerations that nonprofits and government agencies need to think about when cultivating their personalities?
Of course, I think that regulations may make it seem more difficult to do things when it comes to being a government entity - but ultimately the barriers to personality come down to the same thing ... fear. It is the topic that I cover in Chapter 5 - how to overcome the different types of fear and have a personality. The one thing I might add to my list that I share in the book that is common in government is the idea of ego. This not a negative term, as many might suppose, but rather the idea that there are a lot of dedicated government workers that are trying to make a name for themselves because they may have political or career aspirations. It is a key factor that many government agencies may need to take into account when finding a way to cultivate their personalities.
What are some good examples of nonprofits or government agencies that have developed a personality for themselves?
There are a few great examples in the book, but one that I am a big personal fan of is Kiva.org. They have been one of the pioneering groups in microfinance and have also built a large following of dedicated givers because of the way that they manage to portray their brand and let their team members share their passion with the world.
What are some examples of negative nonprofit or government agency personalities, and how might they turn that around for themselves?
Good question - I think the government agencies with the lowest public perception are the ones that you might expect - eg, the IRS. How could the IRS use personality? How about taking an approach similar to what Intuit did with their popular TurboTax solution by letting people answer each other's questions in a real time collaborative online help system? Personality is all about having a human voice and trying to avoid becoming a bureaucracy. Perhaps the better questions is which government agencies couldn't use personality? They all could.
seventeen years ago i belonged to a la-based gay men’s HIV-positive ASYMPTOMATIC support group. ASYMPTOMATIC was the functional word: it distanced us as far as we could get from AIDS. it was having it without having it. fear and shame and stigma captured in a moment of language.
had a love there whom i’ll call jerry, a blonde, blue-eyed hunk with fifty-two t-cells and a kiss that kept me alive. fifty-two t-cells made him happy. fifty was the cutoff. he didn’t have AIDS. he was ASYMPTOMATIC. he felt fine. he felt more than fine. i must agree he felt more than fine.
then came the day.
in an effort to make federal funding available to the shockingly growing national population of HIV-infected individuals, the us center for disease control (cdc) revised its AIDS “portrait” to include — among other things — persons with fewer than 200 t-4-cells. the cdc made this announcement on a monday. our support group met on tuesdays.
jerry came to the meeting in tears.
last week, he’d been free as a bee can fly, an HIV-positive ASYMPTOMATIC person. this week, he had AIDS. nothing else had changed. and everything.
that was the day jerry began to die. i will simplify the rest of his story and tell you he lasted about another year.
Later, Richard talks about the concept and history of Daylight Saving Time:
the us law by which we turn our clock forward in the spring and back in the fall is known as the uniform time act of 1966. the law does not require that anyone observe daylight saving time; all the law says is that if we are going to observe dst, it must be done uniformly.
while it’s not new to our lifetimes, the notion of dst has been around for most of this century and earlier. in the tradition of divinely-appointed kings who could not halt the tides by their bidding, it is an idea new with democracy, itself an exercise in social justice: an informed constituency can command the sun’s passage...
a democracy can command the time, it can alter the fall of daylight.
The implicit point that Richard makes with this juxtaposition of concepts is that definitions are powerful. The words we use to describe something can mean the difference between health and disease, between light and darkness. Jerry's health status was exactly the same before and after the CDC's pronouncement, but the new definition of a healthy t-cell count was essentially a death sentence. The sun is still in the same position in the sky as it would have been, whether we call it 6:00 or 7:00, but we can delay nighttime simply by changing the declared time.
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