Today's communicators need an appetite for disruption

Changing minds requires a jolt as well as a nudge.

Do you have an appetite for disruption, asks Claire Maugham
Do you have an appetite for disruption, asks Claire Maugham
Disruption is all around us, and it’s contagious. Technology makes us look again at how we buy things – from taxi rides to hotel rooms – disrupting orthodoxies and giving consumers the power to buy what they want when they want, rather than at the convenience of those who serve them.  

When a new technology takes hold, it’s hard to imagine how we ever tolerated the old ways of doing things. 

But it takes bravery and creativity to kick-start a cycle of positive change.

Smart Energy GB is the campaign for the national smart meter roll-out – the biggest transformation of Great Britain’s analogue energy infrastructure in years.  

We’ve been tasked by the Government with persuading everyone, from the communities of the Scottish Highlands to the top of every tower block in our inner cities, to say yes to a smart meter. 

This is one of the biggest comms challenges of our time: real behaviour change in a low-interest category, where many people currently have a sense of acceptance about a customer experience that lags behind every other.

Imagine if you had to call your mobile phone provider to tell them how many minutes you’d used – or if the supermarket checkout gave you an estimated total.  

We wouldn’t tolerate the way we buy gas and electricity in any other part of our lives.  

How can we engage the nation to be part of transforming this outdated experience?

During the national roll-out, smart meters will be installed at no additional cost by energy suppliers in every home and micro-business.  

But we will all have to make the active choice to be part of this national transformation.  

Unlike the digital TV switchover, there won’t be a date when the lights will go out – and we don’t have the benefit of a nice neat regional roll-out, either. 

So, turning these constraints into tools, our campaign will challenge the patterns we all follow every day. 

We’ll use creativity and humour to prompt a realisation that things don’t have to be this way.

Our April Fool’s stunt with the Mirror did just that, by suggesting that the next government will be decided by a new Office for Estimation.  

The ‘reveal’ pointed out that estimated energy bills are no less absurd than an estimated government.

And it worked.  

We achieved more than 10 million campaign impressions by 2 April, and four in five people who had seen the campaign were interested in getting a smart meter – significantly more than those who hadn’t. 

Academics have identified three elements of behaviour change. The first is capability (the means); the second is opportunity and the third is motivation. 

I’m optimistic about the task ahead: not only are we in possession of the first two, but we’re looking forward to harnessing the third with a restless appetite for disruption.
Claire Maugham is director of policy and comms at Smart Energy GB

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