Starting a Movement, Big or Small

Despite our sometimes bad rap as an entitled generation, one thing’s for sure: Millennials are a passionate bunch. Whether it’s in the office or in our personal lives, we tend to embark on new projects with vigor, purpose and a desire to make an impact on the world around us.

A few months ago, my co-workers and I started a random conversation about what it means to be preppy. We discussed different genres of prep (mahogany prep vs. beach prep) and even went as far as to create a preppy checklist, including items such as monograms, Bloody Marys, stationery and anything sold by Vineyard Vines. It was a wildly entertaining conversation that resulted in us declaring the following day “Preppy Friday.” The concept was simple: Rep your best prep ensemble. Eat your heart out, Casual Friday.

We started five strong, with headbands, pearls and stripes galore. We shared the photo on Facebook and couldn’t help but be excited about our common goal to turn an otherwise ordinary Friday into a festive one (not to mention all of the photo “likes” on Facebook!)

What we didn’t anticipate, however, is that our rainy day pet project would soon snowball into a company-wide event, celebrated by employees in each of our offices around the country. Every Friday, we started getting more and more photo submissions, each one more impressive than the last. Our smiling faces were even featured in the company-wide newsletter, encouraging everyone to get on board and share their preppy pride. And yes, we created a Twitter account.

When our CEO showed up to work recently with a double polo, popped collars, and a tennis sweater over his shoulders, we knew we had created a movement.

While this may seem like a good way to waste time at work, there is a lesson to be learned from Preppy Friday. It has united our offices under a common goal in a way we never could have imagined, and has taught us all about starting a movement — big or small.

There are four main steps we took that can be applied in almost any situation to drum up support or even build a brand from the ground up:

Identify a need or market.

While dressing more preppy at work wasn’t a “need” necessarily, it certainly unearthed an enthusiastic desire for camaraderie within our organization, geographic boundaries be darned. If you’re looking to spur action in your own community or build something from scratch, try to figure out what your target audience is passionate about, what moves them and what will inspire them to rally around a common cause.

Execute it —

and execute it well. We make it fun, but we have a simple call-to-action and also commit to it on a weekly basis. Without fail, I post our New York office’s submission, and the rest of the participants share it with their respective networks shortly after. We started switching things up, first only taking a group photo using Photo Booth, but now we venture outside, use props and more. It’s important to keep content fresh and, to some degree, keep people guessing. Be the trailblazer, but stay on point and keep your message simple.

Spread the word.

As in many campaigns, social media has been our greatest asset. We’re able to share our photos from all of the offices in one spot, perpetuate a hashtag (#preppyfriday) and also post preppy inspiration we see around us. We also used our company-wide newsletter and my personal blog to get the word out. We’re mindful not to overshare, but we also understand that if we don’t talk about our efforts, we’ll be about as good as yesterday’s meme. Figure out what makes you memorable, and don’t be afraid to shout it from the rooftops.

Empower others to share.

As an organizer, it’s important to use all of the tools at your disposal, and don’t be afraid to ask your members to use theirs as well. After seeing our photos every Friday, one of my co-worker’s friends started sending in preppy photo submissions — all the way from Australia. He uses the #preppyfriday hashtag, giving us an entirely new audience. Word-of-mouth is a powerful tool, and once you hit that certain tipping point, you start to grow organically, and with a little luck, you’ll find yourself with a thriving community that’s truly invested in your mission.

So while Preppy Friday is a slightly silly example, it’s still a successful case study in how one tiny idea can ignite a movement. If you can identify a need, execute it well, spread the word and empower others to share, you may be pleasantly surprised by the impact you can have, too.

Bio: Erica Moss is the community manager for Georgetown University’s online masters degrees in nursing, offering one of the nation’s leading ACNP programs. She enjoys blogging, TV, pop culture and tweeting @ericajmoss.

(This is a sponsored post from our friends at 2U.)