Building Culture from the Inside

Deploy Your Culture First and the Community will Follow

What do startups and artists have in common? They are creative, visionary, entrepreneurial and audacious enough to believe that they can change the world. Labeled by their friends as the ‘crazy’ person who is walking through life with that ‘different’ mindset. Finally, when it comes to communicating their vision to an audience, they all have to deal with the same question. How do we reach the people who are equally crazy and willing to turn into our fans, supporters and buyers?

Whether you’re a startup founder who is building a media platform that can change the online car shopping experience, or you’re a visual artist who is creating installation pieces for galleries, you want to communicate your vision to an audience.  A crazy specific audience at first, because they will be most enthusiastic about what you have to offer. In the startup world, people talk about this early audience as early adopters or “early-evangelists.” In the art world they’re called visionaries.  The way to inspire people and get them talking about you is to encircle yourself with an organic community. An organic community is not only representing the people, it also act as a source from where you can draw feedback to develop a more powerful work for your audience, viewers and users. It helps you stay relevant. So how can we build this community?

Red Cup’s founder and communications director Lee Schneider notes: “Deploy your culture and the right people will come to you.” The culture is what will attract your future fans. When you want to build a community, you first have to build the culture.

Building the Culture from the Inside

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” This is a powerful statement. Often attributed to the anthropologist Margaret Mead, the quote implies that the group of thoughtful and committed citizens are the community that you need to reach. The community you want is driven by a certain culture that they can relate to. Reaching an audience that can relate to your culture is a key aspect because it serves as the seed from which your community and user base will grow. People join in and become adopters because of the culture that the product, service or artwork represents.

Your culture is expressed to the world by the story you tell about yourself. People become fans because they listen to that story and decide in a split second if they want to be part of it. It’s the story that resonates, causes the decision to opt in or out and creates the behavior.
Where do those stories come from? The deep, resonant story that makes friends for you? You’ll find the plot of the story in your culture, your background, your personal history, and what moves you to make the art or business. In other words, the culture comes from the inside. Your culture is expressed by who you are. Further, it’s the people you work with the most. Maybe you have a team. It’s the relationship you have with them and the way you communicate your vision as well as how you treat them. Consider that the most important advertising you can do is internal. Your closest people are the first people after you who will be starting building an organic community with and for you. They will carry your culture forward, and do it willingly, not just because you’re paying them. Your culture is deeper than that, and its deployment is more important than anything else you’re doing. Your culture is what makes you remarkable.

So next time when you talk to a person about your work, think about the culture that your work is carrying. Because what often moves the next evangelist or art patron is not the latest technology (because there are so many) and it’s not the outstanding artistic skill (because there are so many!), it’s the culture that they can relate to and want to be part of.

Natalie Mik is an account manager at Red Cup Agency.