...The opponents are going to be there, and if you don't show up, they're going to speak for you.
...The opponents are going to be there, and if you don't come, they're going to speak for you.
Now the fun begins. In this episode, John encourages you to add the most powerful tool to your toolbox - an entire community of advocates. Transforming a community member into an advocate for your side is the greatest gift you can give your project’s chances for approval.
Takeaways and Teachable Moments
COMMUNITY ADVOCATES DO THE WORK YOU CAN’T DO.
YOUR MESSAGE WILL BE MORE POWERFUL WHEN IT IS THEIR MESSAGE TOO.
MAKE IT PERSONAL. DON’T RELY ON GENERIC MATERIALS.
LET THEM LEAD YOU TO THE NEXT ADVOCATE.
YOUR ADVOCATES WILL KNOW THEY ARE IN THE RIGHT PLACE WHEN THEY SEE AND HEAR LIKE-MINDED PEOPLE FROM THEIR COMMUNITY.
Drawing a person into a conversation is a good opening step. Even more critical may be the action of transitioning them into the role of team member adamantly supporting the cause, which you do by giving them the tools to inform their networks of friends and family. John explains his favorite techniques for cultivating advocates even in the driest and least fertile groups.
Informing people of project benefits and then leaving them alone to decide what is best for the project leaves too much chance of them staying home. You must design ways to encourage the well-informed to become vocal about what they have learned. This episode of the Davies Method answers exactly how to cultivate the noisemakers you need to win.
Overcome the Opposition: The Five Steps: Cultivate
Mark Sylvester: John Davies has a method, an approach he systematically developed over a career spanning three decades. He's proven it to be invaluable for dozens of industries and thousands of projects facing public acceptance. Up until now, the method has only been available to his select client list. John is unpacking his insight and wealth of knowledge to overcome opposition and earn public support for the first time right here.
Throughout these episodes, we'll take a deep dive, step by step, with John, into his strategies to overcome opposition and create support. Nothing is free in this world, but good ideas are priceless. This show could be just the thing you've been looking for. I'm Mark Sylvester. Now, let's get started and talk with John. Welcome back to the show. John, I'm really interested, now that we've gotten the message out. You say that the fourth step is cultivate, and it’s about cultivating relationships, but what's the goal of this step?
John Davies: Well, so if someone says, "I support you," we need to transition them from being a supporter to being an advocate.
Mark Sylvester: Well as a supporter, I'm an advocate. What's the difference? How do you define those two?
John Davies: In order to get someone to be an advocate, we've got to educate them. To educate them, they've got to be motivated. Years ago, when I'd do the steps of doing this, it would educate, motivate. Then I had the flash of the obvious one day. How can I get someone to be willing to be educated without them being motivated? First step is, "Hey, yeah, I'm with you. That's cool. I like this. Wind farm, our community, great for the environment. Love that it's going to help farmers. The kids’ school is falling apart. That’d be great. Our community could use this. I'm in." But is he going to go tell his neighbor? Is he willing to step up? Because his neighbor's saying, "Well, wind turbines kill lots of birds every year," and he is not armed with a positive story. We need to educate him and get him in the game, and by getting him to say, "I support," is the first step.
We get him to say he supports. We seal that support with a commitment, so he's going to be consistent. Now we need to cultivate a relationship with him, and we need to have a relationship with him. One of the things we do in the cultivate stage, is we have a supporters event and we call it a cultivation event. We invite all these supporters to join us, and we just tell them to "Come on by.” We’ll say, “Let's have a barbecue. Let's have a picnic. Let's get together at the Elks or the granger," something we find in the community, and we bring in great food.
Mark Sylvester: I think you've said this before, that you like to emphasize eating?
John Davies: The great food? Yeah.
Mark Sylvester: I was a chef in a former life, and so I love hearing that. Why is that important?
John Davies: Well, let's talk food for a minute, okay? Why is breaking bread so important?
Mark Sylvester: It's community. It's where we’re actually vulnerable, like we're eating.
John Davies: Right. When you eat, you're filling a hole in your mouth with various objects. In that, you're vulnerable. Then alongside that, it changes your blood sugar. It changes the chemistry in your body, and it changes who you are. So if you're energy is bonking a little bit, and you go to the barbecue where we can pick you back up a little bit, that's good. If we have good food it is exciting. I'm telling you, if I get to go to your house for dinner, and I know how good you are at cooking because I've had your food, I start salivating around two in the afternoon thinking I'm having dinner at your house at around six. I start thinking about it. I'm like, "Well, I'm not going to have much for lunch today. I'm going to dinner," and so people start thinking about your cause.
But if you serve them horrible food they might leave thinking, "Oh, I really support this thing, but do I really have to go have those stale sandwiches?" It doesn't have to be expensive. It just has to be tasty and well done. We really put value on that. Let's say we have this event that's a cultivation event. A whole bunch of things happen at this event. People show up, and they look around the room and say, "There's 200, 300 people here." So two, three hundred people, probably is 120 households, because we said, "Bring family."
I mean that's a big crowd. That feels really good. All of a sudden, I don't feel alone supporting the wind farm. All of a sudden, I feel like I'm on the right team. I know there's people fighting it, but all of a sudden I go, "Well, wow, I didn't know this many people were on the same side." That's why we don't make this into a rally. We don't make it into a public event. We don't invite the media. This is just, "Hey, come on by. We're just want to thank you for your support. We want to meet you face to face, have some good food, and give you some short updates."
Mark Sylvester: I can imagine that you and your team, you live and breathe this. How are the executives of the wind company in this environment? Do you have to do some coaching?
John Davies: Well, of course. I mean, there are so many times we have projects that last longer than wind farms last. Where we have numerous gatherings like these. I love going to them at the end, and why I love going to them at the end is seeing the growth of the executives, the team, the project manager, and their ability to connect with people that they think they're addressing, its like they are talking to their best friends. They have a relationship. They share hugs and handshakes. When they stand up to speak, there's applause. I mean, these people are are all working in the same direction for something they believe in. Think about that. That's the beginning of a relationship, and relationships need to be cultivated. In order to have cultivated relationship, you’ve got to have a face-to-face event. That's why we do those events and the supporters like it. It helps us in another way. They create reciprocity of support.
When they come and have a great, because we have a great barbecue that is huge. I mean, when it's a killer barbecue we create something really special. It doesn't have to be steaks and chickens. It can be burgers and dogs or chicken breast sandwiches, but it just needs to be done well. It shows them that we care and that they're special to us, and they'll do the same for us. Because reciprocity is: we return to the people and they give to us.
Mark Sylvester: It feels like in the continuum of touch points you've had with this community, that's on brand to be very personal.
John Davies: It is, yes. The other part of that is, it creates a social proof. We're being really personal with them. So again, in the science of persuasion there is a thing called social proof. That means if people I like, people I trust, people I look up to think something's right, I'm feeling comfortable about thinking it's right, too. So when someone walks in a room full of people similar to them, and there's a lot of people, it’s easier to think, I'm on the right team. I used to do an experiment to play with this. I'd take a group of people, and I'd record them on a videotape. It was so much fun to take a group of people and do this. I'd take one person from the group and we’d go downtown in the District of Columbia, and they would stand on a corner and look up at a tall building in the middle of a busy time of foot traffic. What happens when a guy is looking up, while people are walking by?
Mark Sylvester: Everybody looks up.
John Davies: No.
Mark Sylvester: They don't?
John Davies: Two out of 10 will look up. One guy is just looking-
Mark Sylvester: You have video proof?
John Davies: Yeah.
Mark Sylvester: of course.
John Davies: Two out of 10. Do it now, I'd take 10 more people on the same street corner, and have 10 people look up. Now what happens when people walk by?
Mark Sylvester: Everybody looks.
John Davies: Right, everyone looks. I mean, it's like 11 out of 10 people look up. I mean, people cannot help looking up. What changed is one person looking up versus a lot, so when a lot of people are doing something, it's the right thing to do.
Mark Sylvester: Isn't that called the bandwagon effect?
John Davies: Exactly. It's exactly the bandwagon effect. That’s totally what it is, and I mean, you think about all the things in our society that have become sought after because other people are seeking after it. That is called scarcity, but it works because other people like it.
Mark Sylvester: Let me see if I've got this right. The goal of cultivation is to get them to move, to take action. And we soften them a bit with a lot of love and sincerity. We tell them, "Let's get you on the same place." I start to look around and see others. Now they're motivated and the stage is set. Then from here, how do you educate them?
John Davies: Okay.
Mark Sylvester: Because that's what you want to do, right?
John Davies: Well the way you just said that feels very manipulative. The deal is, it's a process that is using psychology to get people involved. If you didn't have a good motive for it, it is just called a con and you are a con artist. You can only use a method of conning once; you can only con someone once. You can't use the same con on someone over and over, because in order to work again, it has to be true, transparent, and with real people who have the ability to connect with people. What we just did is what everyone's seeking. Community, connecting over something they believe in. We have a shared value, we have a shared belief. We think renewable energy is good for the environment. We think renewable energy is good for this community. We're getting together and we're creating a community. We're creating a relationship about something positive. How crazy is that in the world we live in today? We do it by following steps that make it work better, and so I want to make sure that people don't feel uncomfortable with that.
Now we get them to the event, so how do we educate them? Well, first off, we're now pen pals. We're in this together, and so we're going to forward them information. If they give us the email, we're going to do an email, because that was their preferred means of getting information. We're not going to abuse it by giving them too many emails or too much in an email. I try not to do an attachment that's too complicated. So just a paragraph. It's something you can read in that one pane on your iPhone, unless you have the font set so big, that you can read it quickly and you're like, "Oh, that's cool." And, "Here's a link to go someplace and get more information if you really care and want to." and they do want to. People want to hear more and get more knowledge. Then if we have bigger things to do, we'll send it to them in the mail, and we'll give them a preview, and then we'll give them the big document if they want to read it. That's up to them.
At the cultivation event, when we invite them, we also send it in the mail, and it's creative, it's fun, and it's interesting. It's not a boring invitation. It'll have a really nice graphic showing them that it'll pay off; what we're doing, with the food, the time and the place. It makes it look like it's going to be as fun as it will be. I mean, we've had events with 2,000 people in an ice arena in British Columbia. My favorite event we had one was in Brownsville, Texas. We had a bucking bull, one of those ride the bull things. One of our clients was like 6'8" and weighed like 290, and 70-year-old.
Mark Sylvester: oh I’ve got to see that.
John Davies: 75-year-old! Oh, I have videos. Even a 70, 75-year-old woman got on it, and you put it on the slo-mo. But this guy, we put him on and put it on full speed and he went down really hard. He played basketball in college and was seriously competitive. It was a fun day, a fun afternoon, and now we have a relationship. Now we have reciprocity. Now they look around to say, "I want to play with these people. We're all pulling in the same direction.” Once a supporter even asked, “By the way, you got a bumper sticker?" for this one project we did. We didn't have bumper stickers, so this guy on the project, a supporter who we had a relationship with, went out and printed bumper stickers for us.
Mark Sylvester: For you.
John Davies: Yeah. And they were awful, but they became popular. It was the craziest thing. The stickers were for a gig in British Columbia. Then three years later, I'm driving on a mountain pass in California, and I see one of the bumper stickers. That's the ultimate, right? So you bring these people there. Now, what do you want them to do? Get educated! We're giving them information. We will have many of these events, by the way.
Mark Sylvester: Oh, so it's not just one.
John Davies: Not just one, and the events get a little simpler. My favorite are breakfasts.
Mark Sylvester: Why?
John Davies: Because they're cheap.
Mark Sylvester: Well, sure, because there are less clients looking for direction.
John Davies: Right.
Mark Sylvester: Not so much of the, "John, what do I have to do next?"
John Davies: Well, and we serve beer and wine at the evening events.
Mark Sylvester: Yeah, you don't eat lobster at breakfast.
John Davies: Right, and we'll have a pancake breakfast. Half the time, we do it and bring in like a food bank or some charity that needs cans or used clothes, and that'll be part of our deal, and we give them an update. "Here's what's happening," and we’ll have some community members speak. You can do that for 10 or 12 bucks a head. Then we get the executives cooking the pancakes. That's my favorite part, because they're serving people food. I mean, it's that whole idea. Is this a lot of work? Yeah. It's a lot more work to do everything else, sitting at the county fair, walking in and out of offices without relationship or good messages, and it's a lot of work to spend five years trying to get a wind farm approved and lose.
Mark Sylvester: Well, that's what I'm thinking. I mean, the title of the series is, "Overcome Opposition," and you're giving us these lessons because you know they work and you know they work in this order. And that if I, the listener, take this advice and do things in this order, it's going to work.
John Davies: It will, it will work. I've learned
Mark Sylvester: You're teaching us, show us what?
John Davies: We win eight and a half out of 10 projects in every industry, and we're talking tough battles where we have international opposition groups coming in. But the deal is, how do we know it works? It's like you're playing tennis, right? And your shoulder just hurts every time you do a backhand. You go to your doctor, "My shoulder hurts every time I do a backhand." The doctor's going to try to give you some therapy, but the other thing he is going to say, "Step around the backhand and use a forehand." I've learned how to do these things and what works, and we're constantly changing it in each cultural shift and media shift, because I'll do it wrong and I'll figure out that I never want to have my shoulder hurt, I never want to have the pain of going through something that doesn't work. So we've learned by trying things and refining.
Mark Sylvester: Stay on that for a second, because that's interesting. Tell me if you could remember the last phase shift, if you will, that thing you said, "Gosh, we were always doing this and it always worked, and all of a sudden, that's not working anymore."
John Davies: Well, the hardest is this. In the moment that we found after a very difficult national division, after the political elections. The year, year and a half, the last two, there is a little more animosity, and a little more anger. Then the people that are a little more grace-filled and quiet have more reluctance. So you can't go after them hard. If I want to fire someone up and get them to come to a hearing where, as we're getting near the end of a project, I mean, there's nothing better than telling them that, "The opponents are going to be there, and if you don't come, they're going to speak for you."
I mean, that used to be volume 10, or Elon Musk, or whatever the band was, where you turned the volume, on a scale of one to 10 to 11. That turned it up a level, saying that and pushing that would get people to come. They don't want the opponents to speak. Well, that doesn't work anymore. That doesn't work anymore because people don't want to go to a meeting where there's going to be bad discourse, or where there's going to be ugly discourse.
Mark Sylvester: Again, "I don't want to see my parents fight."
John Davies: Exactly. Before, people are like, "I'm willing to stand up and fight." Now, it's like, "Well, the fight gets ugly on my side. I'm on the honest side," so our deal is to turn this into a grace-filled discussion. And so we have to do a lot of work with local government entities that, when things get ugly, we start working with them to try to calm it down, get their, the people chairing the meeting, to have a stronger gavel, that they don't let people yell at one another. We’ve never had to do that before. That's one of our key goals.
Mark Sylvester: John, I so appreciate hearing each one of these steps, and the rationale behind them. And how, over all of the years, you've been able to figure out, "Why do we do this one now? What's the next one? Where do we emphasize?" What is something that someone could do with this? Again, we like to give homework on the show, so what's the homework on cultivation?
John Davies: Really simple. You have people in a community that you're working on, and you've met them, they say you're a friend. They are a supporter, write them a letter and say, Thank you.
Mark Sylvester: Just that, just that.
John Davies: "That it was so great to see you and meet you, and that we’re so glad you were in support of what we are doing. Thank you so much. I look forward to seeing you again. I hope I can count on you to share your support with others."
Mark Sylvester: A simple thank you note.
John Davies: Yeah. How crazy is that? And handwritten, not in an email. How about a card that you put this little thing you put in the top-right hand corner? It's called a stamp.
Mark Sylvester: I've heard of them.
John Davies: You don't have to lick it anymore, and you send it along. I mean, think about when you get a card. It's so special, right?
Mark Sylvester: There was a TEDx talk recently about handwritten notes.
John Davies: Yeah. By the way, there's a company. Have you heard of this company called Bond?
Mark Sylvester: They'll write them for you?
John Davies: Oh, it's better than that. Before, there was a place that I used in Wisconsin, that they had groups of people come in, older women, and older men who were retired. They'd come in and sit at tables and write notes over, and over, and over. We've done it in our office, and we still do it. But, at Bond they will get your handwriting right, too. They will use your handwriting or simulate your handwriting, creating a font, and you can send them a note in a list, and they will send handwritten notes done by a Montblanc pen or a fountain pen if you'd like, in the color of your choice. You can even send them information from your phone, what you want them to write on the note.
Mark Sylvester: Okay, so I got to talk to my friend, John Davies, about that. I feel a little bit like maybe I'm breaking integrity there. Shouldn't that person actually write that note?
John Davies: You did, you wrote the note. Didn't you? You wrote the statement. I wouldn't do that when I'm sending it to one with Bond. So you just walk out of a meeting, you don't have your notecard in front of you, you don't have the information. You go on your Bond account, you say who you're going to send it to, you say what you want to say, you look at the proof.
Mark Sylvester: So you still had the intent.
John Davies: Well, you got to write it, and you’ve got to do it. By the way, it's a lot easier to go home, take the card out of the file or buy a card and send it, and a lot cheaper, so yeah. But when you're sending it to a whole community, we vary it. I'd have a problem sending it from Bond, where the same message and handwriting was there, so we vary it, the feel of what it says. Because we also, by the way, we know the relationship with every person in the list, right? We've divided them into groups of people. By the way, landowners need a different touch. The other thing landowners need is to know that there's other people in the community that are standing up for them, because what do they feel like?
Mark Sylvester: Well, they're out there on their own.
John Davies: They feel like a pariah.
Mark Sylvester: Yeah, so they’ll appreciate that.
John Davies: By the way, I really appreciate that these are going a little longer than the early ones, and the reason is, is I really want to get as much detail as I can, and I really ... It's really hard, because this is 35 years worth of experience.
Mark Sylvester: I know.
John Davies: I don't have 35 years of podcast to share it.
Mark Sylvester: And the audience doesn't want to wait 35 years to get success on their next project. John, thank you so much, again. We're almost done. We've got one episode left.
John Davies: We do.
Mark Sylvester: We're going to talk about how you ask for help and, which is that key fifth step, and then we're going to wrap up the series, so I look forward to talking to you one more time.
John Davies: All right, let's do that.
Mark Sylvester: Thank you for listening. It's now your opportunity and responsibility to use the method today. You've completed one segment toward understanding the Davies Method. We look forward to you subscribing. Join us as we uncover and explain the nuances of John's distinctive approach. For more episodes, visit thedaviesmethod.com. I'm Mark Sylvester, reporting at the Pullstring Press studios in Santa Barbara, California.
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