How to Turn Adversaries into Allies with your Storytelling

Park Howell is the very best communicator, so I was thrilled to be interviewed by him.  And I love the topic. Why can’t we get along better?  Why is there so much polarization?  Park digs deep. I hope you enjoy our discussion.

#220: How to Turn Adversaries Into Allies With Your Storytelling

If you’re a leader of a purpose-driven brand, you’re seeking ways to advance your positive social impact further faster. But even when you are trying to do good for the world, there may be some who criticize the cause. So how do you overcome that? Learn how you can leverage storytelling to create allies out of adversaries and ultimately propel your mission forward.

Bob Langert is a prominent executive, published author, and columnist for the prestigious GreenBiz. For many years, he worked for a global brand that was long viewed by the public as a hero – but suddenly found itself perceived as the villain. This condemnation from the public created a need for change within the brand. Therefore, Bob spent the next 27 years helping to launch, manage and grow McDonald’s social and environmental efforts.

In order to be credible in sustainability, you have to talk about the problems and the barriers your story faces, along with the successes; you have to be very honest and straightforward. ~ Bob Langert

However, many marketers and brand communicators shy away from this because they fear what the opposition will do with the information. But that apprehension is often one of the greatest barriers to the mission’s success.

Conflict is a really good thing because it challenges your thinking and pushes you to keep moving forward. ~Bob Langert

So instead of avoiding individuals and groups that speak out against your work, be open to learning from them. By respecting your critics and asking about their viewpoints, you are able to see missed opportunities in your work, and in turn, you create a space where they are often more willing and open to listening to and helping you.

Sometimes you have to acknowledge that you are not the expert on the specific topic and acknowledge that the ‘adversaries’ may actually be experts and can help you do better in this area for your organization. ~Bob Langert

Discussed in this Episode

  • The 3 P’s and how to utilize them to advance your mission
  • Why there is more than one way you should perceive the “villains” of your story
  • The importance of being open to and receptive of viewpoints that differ from your own
  • The importance of talking about what you and/or your organization is doing in regards to social-cause work

 

#220: How to Turn Adversaries Into Allies With Your Storytelling

My TED Talk experience

I gave a TED Talk in Edinburgh, July 24th, 2019.  It should be posted by TED in a couple of months.  It was an exhilarating experience, so tough to prepare and practice, so much pressure to do it right and naturally, that is gobbled up my mind for about five months.  Here are some snapshot observations from the experience.

Edinburgh is fantastic city. I was practicing my talk a lot, and not getting it right!

TED’s production and classiest is second to none. Their preparation was so detailed. The pressure to do my talk mounted. TEDSummit: A Community Beyond Borders. July 21-25, 2019, Edinburgh, Scotland. Photo: Dian Lofton / TED

Diane and I arrived in Edinburgh July 19, with my TED Talk scheduled for Wednesday, July 24.

Diane listend so much to my practicing, she could deliver the talk herself. She helped me so much, telling me to breath and slow down.

I attended a prep session for all speakers. You can see I am pensive!

My topic was Adversaries as Allies. You can work with critics, together, on solutions that make sense for business and society. I am passionate about this!

Before I walked on stage, I prayed, to be myself. Bob Langert speaks at TEDSummit: A Community Beyond Borders. July 21-25, 2019, Edinburgh, Scotland. Photo: Dian Lofton / TED

As I started, a calmness settled in. I was natural, relaxed. Thank God. Maybe I could do this 15 minute talk. Bob Langert speaks at TEDSummit: A Community Beyond Borders. July 21-25, 2019, Edinburgh, Scotland. Photo: Bret Hartman / TED

I started with the McD’s Styrofoam package story, and how it began my career of working with critics. Bob Langert speaks at TEDSummit: A Community Beyond Borders. July 21-25, 2019, Edinburgh, Scotland. Photo: Bret Hartman / TED

I described how working with the Environmental Defense Fund was good for us. They gave us great ideas, like switching from white, bleached bags to unbleached, brown bags.
Bob Langert speaks at TEDSummit: A Community Beyond Borders. July 21-25, 2019, Edinburgh, Scotland. Photo: Bret Hartman / TED

I went on to tell stories about working on animal rights and helping to save the Amazon rainforest with Greenpeace.
Bob Langert speaks at TEDSummit: A Community Beyond Borders. July 21-25, 2019, Edinburgh, Scotland. Photo: Dian Lofton / TED

I cannot thank Corey Hajim enough. Corey was my curator, coach, big fan, chief advisor and she made it all possible for me. Thank you Corey!
Host Corey Hajim speaks at TEDSummit: A Community Beyond Borders. July 21-25, 2019, Edinburgh, Scotland. Photo: Ryan Lash / TED

Briar Goldberg was my speech coach, who calmed me down, motivated me to listen to just one voice! Mine.
Speaker Briefing at TEDSummit: A Community Beyond Borders. July 21-25, 2019, Edinburgh, Scotland. Photo: Bret Hartman / TED

I was honored to be invited and listen to all the speakers. The whole experience was remarkable. Most of all, I thank Diane, my wife and best friend and supported me all along. I think it all worked all well. I look forward to my talk going public.

Meat and Poultry

I thank Meat and Poultry for this three part podcast about my book.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Bob Langert, a former vice president over sustainability initiatives at McDonald’s spent more than 20 years at McDonald’s focused on ways for the company to address a range of issues related to sustainability.

For his book,”The Battle to do Good: Inside McDonald’s Sustainability Journey”, Langert says he interviewed about 51 people who were part of McDonald’s sustainability journey during his time with company. According to Langert, no company goes it alone when it comes to sustainability. But if sustainability is a team sport, who do you want to play for your side?

Bob Langert has a few thoughts about this subject which kicks off the second installment of our conversation.

Next week, we’re taking a break for the July 4 holiday, but we’re not quite done sharing what we learned from Bob Langert about McDonald’s and sustainability. So, in the third and final installment of our conversation, he answers several questions, including: Who defines the role of companies in society these days and how does social media influence that debate? Does big business have any business addressing social issues? And what’s a “hard knock nugget?”

 

Adversaries as Allies/Common Ground

I spoke at the terrific Chicago Common Ground conference last week.  I highly recommend it, so practical and insightful.

I spoke about adversaries as allies, using my first experience working the Environmental Defense Fund in 1990/91 as an example.  EDF’s original motto was “Sue the Bastard.”  They worked with McDonald’s to collaborate.  A real breakthrough.

Remember the notorious Styrofoam clamshell? I used a Big Mac package from 1991 to talk about our work with EDF to reduce waste.

This Common Ground conference might be the best one I’ve been exposed to. For those looking for practical and thoughtful program, consider this.