Beyond Winning – Change the Culture

When we at Topos are asked what distinguishes our approach from how others develop communications strategy, the answer is simple: We focus on creating tools for changing the culture.

On issue after issue, advocates for important causes must contend with cultural patterns that work against their goals. Despite these communicators’ passion, wisdom and hard work, progress is often frustratingly slow because broadly shared patterns of thought and understanding are preventing progress and engagement.

Communicators often know or sense – whether through research, instinct or experience – that they are up against stubborn patterns like these. So what to do?

Unfortunately, one all-too-common approach is to work “with” current attitudes rather than against them. For instance, communicators are advised to “beat up on government” before advancing their own proposals. They are told that referring to government’s shortcomings or failures is a way to “connect” with the public, to show they “get it.”

But what happens when this advice is followed? One result is predictable: further reinforcement of the attitudes that stand in our way. So even a “win” ends up making future victories more difficult, and may in any case be reversed or undermined by the next vote.

In this way communicators can end up winning a battle while losing the war – because they haven’t worked towards changing the culture, towards the kind of change that lasts.

With this short memo, we explain the limitations of winning without culture change.