Overcome the Opposition: The Five Steps: Ask for Help
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.
John, we're at the last bit of our show, and we've gone through the philosophy. We've gone through strategy. We've gone through tactics. We've really done a deep dive on so many different areas. I feel like I've had a master class in this. So first off, from me, thank you so much, but we're not done. What's the last step? So now that we've motivated them, we educated them, we cultivated them, what do you mean ask for help?
John Davies: Well, in the last episode, we dove into cultivation, our goal is to transition them from being someone that liked us, supported us, to being an advocate.
Mark Sylvester: Right.
John Davies: So what does it mean to be an advocate? They can help us change minds. So if I go to people who are undecided ... I call them. I meet with them. I pound on them after they've already said they're undecided. Or, people that are opposed ... They're like, "Well, you are from a wind company. You're paid to like wind. This is your job, so I don't trust you. I'm not sure if you come here with clean motives."
Their next door neighbor, their co-worker or sister-in-law sits down and says, "Man, I just went to this event about the wind farms coming here, and I am so excited about wind farms." and they say, "Well, I don't like 'em." and someone they trust asks them, "Well why don't you like 'em?" They talk, and all of a sudden maybe there is a change.
We find in communities, when we do polling at the start of a project, and it's 40% with you, 40% against you, 20% undecided. In this approach, we're targeting a group of people who are likely supporters. That's who we're talking to, to start. We will come out at 65 or 70 percent in favor in the next poll. Because we have a group of people who are motivated and educated advocates, and they will go to work for us. Well, the first thing is, we never stop talking to them. We never stop giving them things. So we say, "Hey, if you come across someone that has some questions, you can send them our way, or you can just share what you know." In some ways, that's a good use for social media too, because we can be pushing information to them without getting to invasive in their mailbox or email box.
But the other thing is, there are meetings. So the big thing now, if you're an opponent to wind, is to change the ordinance, the wind ordinance. Move the setback so far back that you can't actually build a wind farm. So you have to be this far set back from a property line and any structure. And you keep setting things back so a wind farm doesn’t work. So we have to have our people go to these hearings. We need people to go to a hearing and support us. So, asking for help is, "Will you come to this hearing?"
How do we get someone to come to the hearing? That's an interesting part, because who wants to go to a public hearing?
Mark Sylvester: Probably nobody.
John Davies: Yeah, except those who are opposed and are just so motivated. A lot of people are not motivated to hate wind. They're just angry, and they need a purpose. So their purpose is to fight you. So we’ve got to outnumber them. One of the biggest things that's changed, is if we outnumber them by one or two, it works. In the past, we used to have to double or triple the number opposing us. There's a point where we had five, 10 times as many supporters to outweigh the opponents. Now, our society expects people to be opposed. Decision makers see an equal number of supporters as opponents, it goes our way. Because it's hard to step out and say that you support something.
So how do I get you to do something you don't like? That's what we're doing. First off, you made a commitment to me, and I'm gonna hold you to it in a very kind manner. Plus, we have enough people that I don't need all of them to go. So if I can get 10 or 20 percent of them to go, then I'm in good shape. If I get call and say, "Hey, can you go to this hearing Saturday night?" Well, probably not. Are you going to go on a weeknight? You might be more likely. So we say, "Tuesday night, there's a hearing. Will you go?" Lot of people say on the phone. “Sure. I'll be there. Yeah, yeah, my husband and I will be there. Okay." It's 20 percent chance they're gonna be there.
Mark Sylvester: Even when they said yes?
John Davies: Yep. So there are a couple things we work on. One is, how we set up what happens before the hearing, and the other is, how we seal that commitment again. So when you tell me on the phone you're going, I'm sending you a note saying, "We're so excited to see you." That's a perfect email note, by the way, "We're so excited to see you. Here are the particulars for the event." I may give you an early warning letter, like a month out. I may give you a notice three weeks out, and then, I call you, and I give you a reminder that you said that. And then the day before, I call you to remind you. Maybe even the day of, I remind you.
But the other thing is, we will have a little pre-hearing gathering and we serve lunch or dinner, depending on what time the hearing is. And it’ll be good food. Not a lot. Not expensive, but something good. What happens is, if I invite you to come to my daughter's lacrosse game, and you're like, "Oh. That'd be fun. I like John. His daughter seems like she's nice. I think I'll go to the game." Well, there's gonna be 300+ people at this big lacrosse game. And that night, you're tired. You might think “ah”
Mark Sylvester: "He won't miss me."
John Davies: Yeah. “He won't miss me." But if I say, "Hey, go to my daughter's lacrosse game." You go, "Yeah, that'd be great. I’d love to see that.” Or if I say, “Hey, why don't you come over beforehand? I'll barbecue some burgers, and we'll have some burgers and we'll have one of those special new beers that I found. You are gonna really like the dark one."
Now, you’ve just made a personal commitment to me. You will be missed. So when we call through, and people say they're gonna go. We have 200 people who are going to come to the hearing, 150 maybe. Then 300 say no, they can’t do it because they're too busy. The second question is, "Hey, are you gonna make it to the pre-hearing gathering right across the street at the restaurant?"
We have 200 saying they're coming to the hearing. We have 150 saying they're coming to the pre-hearing. How many people do I count on to come to the hearing?
Mark Sylvester: Well the math would say, I think, is 350?
John Davies: Well, no. The 200 are going to the hearing, but only 150 are coming to the pre-hearing out of that 200.
Mark Sylvester: I think all 150 are gonna go to the hearing.
John Davies: Pretty close. Pretty close.
Mark Sylvester: Pretty darn close.
John Davies: Yeah, because we're reminding them that we're ordering food for them. That changes everything. And the 50 that say they're gonna come to the hearing but not the pre-hearing, and most don't come. So the pre-hearing changes everything. What we just did is create a commitment with them.
Mark Sylvester: Right.
John Davies: And a relationship.
Mark Sylvester: But you have a relationship with them, already?.
John Davies: Right, and a reciprocity.
Mark Sylvester: And you do that.
John Davies: But the deal is, you'd shine coming to my daughter's lacrosse game if something else came up, and you'd know it wouldn't be a big deal because we're not doing something personal. You're gonna sit in the stands with a bunch of people. We're not gonna have a conversation. So that does it.
The other thing is when they show up at that room, we give them talking points. "Here's what we should talk about. Pick a couple of the points." So we go around the room and talk to them. "What do you think you'd like to talk about?"
Now if the community has speaker slips, when you go to a hearing, you fill out a slip. We'll help them fill out that slip, because when they get in the room, and they see the opponents, and they see the big stand, they're like, "Uh, I support it. I'll wear the badge saying that I support it, but that's good enough." But if they fill out the speaker slip, they're gonna speak, because they made a commitment.
Mark Sylvester: Do you hand out the speaker slip at the pre-meeting?
John Davies: Oh, of course. Yeah, we bring those. We go get them and bring them in. Now, a lot of communities don't do that. They have you sign up in the room, or the worst in history is line up against a wall. So let's go line up on the side of the wall, with a bunch of opponents and supporters in the line. So that's like if we get a group of white supremacists with a group of anfis all in a line to see how many fights we can have. It's ridiculous. So we try to work with the communities not to do that. We tell them, "That's just not a good idea. So why don't you do slips that we can hand out?"
Mark Sylvester: So you're working both sides just to optimize it.
John Davies: Well, if we can. If we can. Not every community is open to us. So asking for help all the way along is important. What we say is, as we transition these supporters into advocates, we never forget the flowers.
Mark Sylvester: I like that.
John Davies: And the deal is, we gotta ... They show up. They send us a note. We thank them. We appreciate them. "Thank you for coming." Now the interesting thing is, we appreciate all of our supporters. So if we have a thousand committed supporters in a community, and we have a hearing, we write a letter to all thousand thanking them for their support at the hearing. We don't know who wrote and who didn't.
Mark Sylvester: Right, right, right.
John Davies: And the other thing is, if I thank you like three times, you're eventually gonna say, "Well, I oughta do something." And that works. And then we put a real personal note. If you spoke, if you showed up, you wore the badge and you stayed, we do a little handwritten note on there.
Mark Sylvester: You know it would be interesting, John, to go into one of these communities where, I think you said in an earlier show, you've got a 8.5 out of 10 winning ratio. I would love to see a bulletin board of all the communications that the John Q. public got.
John Davies: No, I know. I know.
Mark Sylvester: And just the thank you notes are in their own category, right?
John Davies: Yeah.
Mark Sylvester: Because part of this strategy is, it's a personal relationship.
John Davies: Well, see, you're in a community that's 20 or 30 thousand people, and you got these thousand people that you're playing with. It's pretty easy to have an ongoing communication with a thousand people. And it's absolutely horrible and unproductive to try to communicate with 20,000, and it is unproductive not to communicate with anyone.
So the deal is, there are moments, and wind farms are there now because of so much on the internet that is anti, and it's like you can get as much information as you want against a wind farm. False information, I think we all know that, but you can get it. And there's a beginning you gotta work through some serious pain to get through this. You gotta work through the moments where your opponents are really angry, and you’ve got to hold your supporters and landowners together. You’ve gotta walk them through this. And it works. And you've gotta walk through it. I see the first people to crack are not the supporters. It's usually the companies. Usually, the executives and the project managers.
Mark Sylvester: You've said that several times.
John Davies: Well, it's hard.
Mark Sylvester: They're in the audience, right?
John Davies: Right. They are in the audience. They have to convince themselves. So if the hearings are hard and there's a lot of opponents, and it's a fight, they want to quit.
Mark Sylvester: The title of the show is "Overcome Opposition"-
John Davies: Right.
Mark Sylvester: That opposition shows its head everywhere.
John, the person who's listened from Episode 1. When we laid this out, then we went through our four stages. The philosophical bit. And then we had that great show about Aristotle, and then we've gone into how it's done wrong. And then the last five shows, we've talked about what are really. All of this. We had some long episodes there. Those were great. How would we wrap up “The Davies Method?”
I'm thinking of the core message you said earlier. I've got that poster that's got 20 to 35 words. What are the 20 to 35 words?
John Davies: Well, for us? Find your message based on the fears and dreams of the community. Translate that into something you can communicate with people. Get it in their hands, and never stop talking to them. And that's it.
Mark Sylvester: And that's it?
John Davies: Yeah. At the end of the day, that’s it.
Mark Sylvester: And listener, what John has done is he's pulled out this poster that I'm gonna put in the show notes so people can download this. What it is, is very simple graphics. It's very nice to look at, and it's been folded so much that I'm sure you've shown this to thousands of people.
John Davies: Yeah, I printed thousands of them and left them different places. I didn't pick up more than the one, and I wrote notes on the back of it. I probably should reprint it since I haven't used it in about 10 months.
But the deal is the industry is in a really interesting time, because all the easy locations are developed or under development, or have been tainted by bad developers doing bad community relations. There's a wealth of misleading information on the internet that drives the opponents. There are people paying for that information. There are people paying for campaigns. We also face decision makers who are weak in this era of government. They don't want to be accused.
So if you, depending on what view you have, it's the old elephant story. If you're blind and touching the elephant, what you see. But if you're looking at and can only see letters and screams from the opponents, you think everyone is opposed. If you see the reality is, there's some people opposed, but most people are either undecided or supportive of wind. That's our job, is to make that visual for the decision makers, and we talked about how we do it. We have a method of coming up with how we approach people, and we have a very strategic approach for how to get there. And it all starts with you being transparent, honest, and then really listening to people.
And so, I just look forward to hearing from the first people that take this and go do something, and they change the future of their company. And more than that, if you can do this really well, you're gonna change your career.
Mark Sylvester: I would love for someone to write you at thedaviesmethod.com. Go to the website. And it might be a year from now, right? Where they write us and tell us that story. And I'd love to have you come back and do a special episode, and talk to them and hear what happened because you've taught so much. I have taught a lot. When you find that student later in life, and they come back and say, "Oh, man. Thank you so much for that. You have no idea what it meant."
John, this has meant a lot to me. I'm a communicator. I love these ninja tricks that you brought us, but I really like the idea of a formula. I'm a systems thinker, so I really like that. I can go in, and I know I have got to do this. If that one didn't work, I've gotta go back.
In an earlier episode you talked about a master series. What's the idea? What are you thinking of there?
John Davies: Well, it's something that people have asked me to do, like in-house. "Can you come in and spend two days with our company and train people? because we can't afford to have you do all our wind farms." And other people are like, "Will you do all our wind farms because we actually want to win?" And I'm like, "Well, I can do either.” I don't want to go into one company to do it. I want to train as many people as possible, so we're putting together a group of maybe 25, or maybe at the most 30. Come in for a day and a half, twice a year, for two years, and we're gonna walk you through these things. And we're gonna walk you through it.
Mark Sylvester: So, a deep dive?
John Davies: A deep dive. Walk through it. Have, obviously, really good food. Have a good time getting together and getting to know one another so we can talk. We can talk by phone. You can talk with the group. Bring in some experts in different fields. And this allows someone to do this method and learn it and take it on, and it doesn't come out of your communications budget. It comes out of your education budget. And this'll be really helpful, I hope, for the industry because I can't work with every company. I want to be hands-on and I want our folks to be hands-on. This is the way to making sure the companies start doing the right thing and we don't have to clean up as many messes for the companies that don't.
Mark Sylvester: I love it, John. When we have news on the master series we’ll update the blog. Another reason why we want people to subscribe. So they can stay tuned to what's coming up and the new ideas that you have to share.
John, thank you so much.
John Davies: Hey, thank you.
Mark Sylvester: I appreciate it.
John Davies: Thanks for doing this. It was so much easier than trying to sit down and write this up and do it. Just to have a conversation. And it probably never would’ve gotten done if I had to stand up in a microphone and do it, rather than have a conversation. So I really appreciate it.
Mark Sylvester: John Davies, thank you so much.
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, recording at The Pullstring Press Studios in Santa Barbara, California.