Plant a Flag
Last week, I spoke with a fellow Cal grad about how to kickstart a community she’s working on. We discussed strategies for getting the attention of the specific group of people she aims to serve.
Even with good intentions, it can be a challenge to gain the attention, trust, and time of people you want to help.
This conversation reminded me of a quote from this article by Christina Xu. Christina’s an ethnographer and budding gardener who works out of Orbital with me. She writes about “crafting a signal” for a community of interest:
Whether it’s an invitation to an event, a call to action, a piece of art, or a literal flare, the signal is how you get the attention of the people you are trying to gather… The best signals are the ones that find people who actually want to connect on their own terms.
— Christina Xu
Piggybacking off of Christina, I tell folks to “Plant a flag.”
To rally a group of people, start by doing something bold that not only signals your shared interest but also gathers these humans to further explore that interest with each other.
Create a rallying moment. For instance:
- If you want to launch an ambassador program, bring superfans in and ask for their feedback to improve the latest product.
- If you want to assemble volunteers for a cause, organize an activity where people can start chipping away at the problem.
- If you want to start a local zoo fan club, invite folks to a teaser event where they can learn about zoo history.
Don’t take, give. Don’t chase, gather. Don’t lecture, enable.
Planting a flag doesn’t have to be big, expensive, or flashy. Planting a flag means giving people a defined moment to show up and meaningfully plug into what they care about.