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The Tipping Point – Lessons for Public Relations Professionals

April 14, 2010

How can a public relations practitioner use the principles of social epidemics to enhance their communication?

tipping point malcolm gladwell social epidemics public relations

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point offers insights into the phenomenon of the “tipping point,” that moment when an idea, trend or social behaviour crosses a threshold and turns into an epidemic. Understanding this moment is invaluable to PR professionals.

According to Gladwell, there are three elements to social epidemics:

The Law of the Few:

This posits that any epidemic begins with a small selection of individuals who do the majority of the work in spreading an idea.

Connectors: are those individuals with large networks of soft relationships who have the ability to connect people.

Mavens: are those individuals who have an inherent thirst for knowledge and connect us with valuable information.

Salesmen: are the persuaders who have ability to sell people ideas.

The Stickiness Factor

In order for an idea to spread it must not only grab people’s attention, but keep it as well.

The Power of Context

The environment people find themselves in and the context around ideas have the ability to change the way an idea is received.

Lessons for Public Relations

  1. Learn to identify the Connectors, Mavens and Salesmen and use them to spread your idea.
  2. Research, research, research – research is vital in creating communication that will spread well.
  3. Communication must be targeted – identify your audience and create a message that speaks to them.
  4. Advertising is a dying industry – people are more receptive to ideas that come from peers; social media can be a useful tool in this respect.
  5. Communication must be two-way – people are more likely to accept decisions they had a hand in shaping.
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