Motivation must precede community call to action

Les Brown once eloquently expressed, “Wanting something is not enough. You must hunger for it. Your motivation must be absolutely compelling in order to overcome the obstacles that will invariably come your way”.

We have all experienced or heard advertisers, marketers, business owners, and even community leaders express the need to act now or express a call-to-action. This call-to-action might be in the form of wanting consumers to make a purchase, citizens encouraged to attend a community event, get involved in the community, or to take an action or behave a certain way. This call-to-action is often done with a sense of urgency and usually without much planning or forethought.  There is certainly a time and place for a call-to-action, but done without forethought, a call-to-action is simply a phrase without hope of changing behavior. Hope is a very poor business plan.

BJ Fogg, in his book, Tiny Habits, discusses the need to provide enough emotion that will trigger a motivation to act. In other words, without an emotional trigger that spurs a newfound motivation, a call-to-action will never have long lasting behavior changing power.  We often find ourselves spending time worrying about what the best call-to-action might be, while missing the most critical components that trigger motivation stimulating a long-term change in behavior. 

Let’s translate these thoughts into the community world. This might mean that in order for citizens to behave a certain way that benefits the community, the community must provide compelling reasons for them to listen to your message. How do community leaders issue a clarion call-to-action when the community suffers from a lack of engagement, low self-esteem or pride, rampant apathy, and little attachment? These are real issues that will negate any call-to-action regardless of its nature.  No amount of planning will solve your issues without dealing with the above issues head on.

These issues are dealt with through a relentless educational campaign utilizing multiple communication channels. They are dealt with by providing a business-friendly atmosphere which incentivizes innovation and entrepreneurship. Innovational and entrepreneurial mindsets create excitement and new ideas. They are dealt with by providing new events that foster kinship, friendships, and relationship building. They are dealt with by creating an environment of awareness and transparency. Above all, they are dealt with by providing a vision easy to see, understand, and follow. Without a vision of the future explaining where you are going, no one will follow for any length of time.

Let’s translate these thoughts into the business world.  This might mean that to drive consumers to your place of business, you must offer a compelling reason for them to visit. Does your business provide a unique experience? Does your business provide over the top customer service? Is your business open at convenient times for consumers that work 9-5? Are your prices compelling? Do you or your business actively participate in the community? Do you serve on local boards and organizations? While few can do all the above, each of those that you can implement will trigger emotions and motivations to some consumers that will then listen to your call-to-action.

Always remember, calls-to-action are a key component to success, no doubt. You can’t neglect the critical steps of triggering the motivation. If you want to be remembered, understand that emotions make thoughts memorable. This motivation is necessary to assure that your response to the call-to-action is adequate, compelling, and sustained.

It is easy to get short bursts of action and progress, but it is the sustainable action that means the difference between short-term bursts and long-term growth or success. It will never be easy. Educating a community is an ongoing, long-term, and relentless task. But let me close with the words of Roy T. Bennett, when he said, “Your hardest times often lead to the greatest moments of your life. Keep going. Tough situations build strong people in the end.” 

John Newby is a consultant and speaker whose “Building Main Street, not Wall Street” column appears in 60-plus communities. He can be reached at [email protected]