#PRSAICON – Beyond Engagement

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20161023_145854Earlier this week, I published a post with some of my favorite highlights (and one lowlight) from last week’s PRSA International Conference.


Perhaps the only glaring omission from that post was sharing anything from my favorite session of the conference, Mike McDougall’s “Beyond Engagement” breakout.


But, I did it on purpose so it could have its very own post today!


His presentation focused on how to harness the untapped power of belonging to go beyond engagement in the battle to win the hearts and minds of employees, partners and customers.


But how do you make someone want to belong?


Actually, according to McDougall, there are eight factors that make someone want to belong:

  1. Purpose – give people one.
  2. Perceived Difference – don’t always focus on what you are. Focus on what you aren’t and what makes you different (and, as an extension, your team or customers different).
  3. Mutuality
  4. Common Enemy – and this doesn’t mean you need to have a Red Sox/Yankees battle with a competitor. But, say you are a nonprofit – how about making poverty your actual enemy the way the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation did? Give people something to rally against, not just for.
  5. Shared Experience
  6. Ritual – whether a baseball fan or not, what happens during the seventh inning of a baseball game? Most people know – and ritualistically perform – that means it is time for Take Me Out to the Ballgame. Give people rituals to do together to make them part of the group.
  7. Badging – sometimes it comes down to SWAG. Have some? Is it cool? If not, get some.
  8. Intimacy


There are also a few bonus reinforcing elements:

  1. Immortality – make people think that their ideas and vision will live on in some way through being a part of your group or brand.
  2. Reward – give people something that will make them use you over another brand when all other deciding factors are the same. Think Marriott Rewards.
  3. Exclusion – think about how American Express has its black card members. They don’t get let anyone in, you have to earn it. And people line up in drive to do so.
  4. Loyalty Test
  5. Celebration – small stuff, from birthdays to anniversaries, matter to people. Make a big deal of them in any way you can. People always remember it.


Now, it is nearly impossible to succeed in making people feel every single one of these elements, but brands and businesses who think outside the “engagement box” are taking the time to prioritize which of these matters most to them – and which of these they can actually achieve – to great results.

Alison Bailin
Alison Bailin
Senior Account Executive Alison has a lot to say…about pretty much everything...all the time. From the current state of public relations to the social media impact on Shark Week to crisis communications in the sports world, Alison’s blogs are focused on “amusing through her PR musings,” and then some. Check out Alison's full bio

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