Olivia Gossett Cooper. Meet the mind behind this wonderful movement, still in its infancy but with big ambition. Today We Will makes doing something good, worth doing. For its followers, Today We Will is a change newsletter. Every weekday morning, it reveals a small positive task for the day. When done by all recipients, it can have a big impact. For more ideas on Uprising and movements, cultural movements and movement marketing, follow Uprising!!! on Facebook. We’ll continue to publish brand-new columns on a regular basis. Hey, do us a favor and please give Uprising!!! a review on iTunes. Scott Goodson is the author of best-selling book ‘Uprising: how to build a brand and change the world by sparking cultural movements,’ available on Amazon.com. Scott has helped create and build some of the world’s most iconic brands. He is founder of StrawberryFrog the world’s first movement marketing agency.
Uprising Interview transcript
Olivia: Small tasks that I put in these emails that go out everyday are things that I do every day. I started talking about them with people was I was working with and friends and family. The biggest thing I kept hearing was well I’m just one person. If I turn the lights off and leave the room it’s not going to make a difference, so I’m not going to do it. Just after hearing that more and more I was sitting at my desk and it just kind of clicked that we need to be unified in this idea.
Welcome to Uprising. Each episode looks into what it takes to lead the most dynamic and successful cultural movements; some of them in the business world, some in the social realm, some in politics, and some in-between, to see why people start uprisings. What gives that initial momentum, what keeps them going and most important, what lessons you can learn from these movements, and how to apply them to your business, and even personal life? Let’s explore the secret to sparking movements that move people into action.
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Scott: Hello and welcome to Uprising, this is Scott Goodson, and after studying movements for many years I realized there are people out there who believe strongly n making an impact on the world, some o those people believe in starting movement, and in the end it relies on passion. They wake up one morning and they’re very passionate about something. Olivia Gosset Cooper is the founder of Today We Will, and when she started this movement, she added something else, in an addition to passion, she added organizing and simplifying to a list of what she wanted people to do. Not just organizing people into a movement, but helping them to do it effectively, and removing some of the pain in the neck stuff associated being part of a movement. The emails are sent daily to its followers about great deed. And it could also be about simple things. And in a simple short paragraph the email explains why it’s a good idea and how you can do it. The overall goal is to combine errands and inspire people to do these great deeds in a very simple way. So Olivia, welcome to the show.
Olivia: Thanks for having me; I’m excited to be here.
Scott: So tell me, how did you get to this point? Tell me what was Olivia like the day that you came up with your movement and what did you set out t accomplish that day?
Olivia: It was actually about a year ago I was at work, I won’t say where I was working because you’re not supposed to be working on other stuff on the job, but being small tasks that I put in these emails that go out every day, are emails that I do every day. I started talking about them with people I was working with and fried s and family and the biggest thing I kept hearing was well I’m just one person. If I turn the lights off and leave the room it’s not going to make a difference, so I’m not going to do it. Just after hearing that more and more I was sitting at my desk and it just kind of clicked that we need to be unified in this idea. That if there’s somehow where you could know you weren’t the only ne working on something or going that small task, you would realize doing that small task would actually have an impact. The idea that today we will, I will turn off the light just kind of popped in my head. I got the URL a year later I started working on this. At the time I just didn’t have to time to work on this, s that’s kind of how it sparked.
Scott: That’s great. You set out and built this messaging system that’s going out that’s sending inspiring messages. Did it just take off, one to the next; did you find you had thousands of people adopting it or what happened?
Olivia: well for awhile I was asking friends and family for their feedback because it’s really the language around getting people to work on sustainability or societal change I so , you have to be really careful with it, and I want to make sure that, cause it can seem annoying. It can seem like you’re nagging or it can seem negative, and I really want this to be a positive movement, not saying what’s wrong, but that here’s what we can do. So the language is really important to me. So I’m starting out in these first two moths keeping it really close to friends and family and the sustainability community, which I’m really connect to while getting my MBA in sustainability right now. So being able to school there and through other organizations who work around sustainability I’ve been getting great feedback from them, and after that we’ll try to target people outside of that small bubble who really need to get on this movement who aren’t.
Scott: One of the things I found remarkable on it was how simple and easy to follow instructions come along with your mood, which I think is a really great thing. Like you said I think a lot of people try to tackle these really big issues and end up creating a kind of wall to make it simple when you go onto your emails. I just really love that. How did you kind of get to a point where you felt that was the key?
Olivia: Thanks for pointing that out because that is done on purpose. I was working as a copywriter for 6 years and very familiar with the way people read copy and information and visuals and they see online. I am very aware that you have very short attention spans out there and getting an email everyday is a barrier in itself, not everybody wants to sign up for that. The only way to make it digestible was to make it short and sweet and bit-sized.
Scott: Was there anything about your background that kind of helped you understand that you need to communicate in a simple and succinct way?
Olivia: Absolutely. I mean working as a copywriter for everything from developing apps to ad campaigns, I was always ‘make it more succinct, make it more direct’. Thanks to data on some of the campaigns I worked on we know that things that are more direct and simple to follow and shorter perform the best. I guess it was more intuitive that I gained that perspective and applied that to the Today We Will newsletter. I try to keep everything short and sweet.
Scott: You talked about how you have been working with your family to test some of these concepts. Aare there any learnings from talking to your family that you were like ‘Oh My God I need to make this super simple or they’re not going to get and are not going to be engaged’.
Olivia: Well I realized something became a reality that I already knew, which were people are not going to do these small tasks that we suggest people do every day. It’s just not going to happen. If we get 80% of the people doing it, that’s a great thing. But I realize that’s okay, and I kind of knew this going into it anyway, because its more than getting people to do these small tasks, but it’s also getting people aware of why these tasks matter. Talking to some people, they weren’t aware of how much waste turning up you faucet between brushing your teeth can waste.
Scott: That was a great email by the way, I thought it was really, I’ve seen that message a lot, but the way you framed it was really great.
Olivia: Thank you, you know its education to be able to say ‘oh that’s what that does? That’s why people keep ranting about not using plastic’. You know its half education is the goal of the newsletter. So that was one being realization and the other, Scott you’ve been getting the newsletter so you might have noticed the changed recently. There are calendar reminders that you can add to do the tasks, because you get these emails once a day in the morning, and if it’s not a habit for you to not ask for a lid for you coffee, a little calendar reminder could help. You might want to do it, but remembering it is half the battle. So I’ve added those too.
Scott: So what is your biggest goal, if you were to tackle the biggest thing in your wildest dreams what would it be.
Olivia: the goal is to get as many people to read this as possible, that’s my personal dream, but the goal of the newsletter is to get people to start thinking about how their behaviors, or how all of our behaviors, no matter how big no matter how small, does have a global impact. Think globally, act locally, and I think it really honing in on that idea. My goal is to have people to talk about it. If you read something today based in the newsletter, and you tell someone else, and they tell someone else, and it’s creating a conversation around the actions that we take, is really the goal.
Scott: Do you find that the messages are spread? Are you able to track that? How does it work?
Olivia: So I’m able to track a few things, obviously the clicks on our emails, and sometimes I’ll put in links to read more. We put in links to learn more about the task we’re doing that day and why we’re doing that task. So you have about 20 % clicks when that goes out, so people want to learn more which is very encouraging. It’s nice because the task is actually in the subject line from today you will… and then you have the subject line. Today we will ask for no lids, and so on. So it’s really fun, and people want to open it up and understand why we’re doing what we’re doing, and that’s over 50% average wait. So people are interested, as we’re keeping it and slowly rolling it out, one ad on social channels to go along with it, and you’ll be able to track social action that way, but one step at a time.
Scott: I think the combine errands idea is really wonderful because it sort of walks the talk. He talk is sort f how do you live a sustainable life or a better life that doesn’t make a significant impact on the planet, and you’re not making a significant impact in the rewards that you use, and you’re trying to simplify it for people. It’s a really nice tie in with what you ultimate objective is.
Olivia: Thanks yeah, I’m glad you mentioned it. I was speaking with my friend last night and it bugged me, well this is someone I’ve known for while and I know they are addicted to Amazon shopping, which when you have a prime account, it’s easy to be. You click the button you can get almost anything, from a tube a toothpaste, to 600 tubes of toothpaste, and they told me well isn’t it more sustainable to shop online? This is someone in the suburban area and would otherwise need to drive to get their essentials, and it bugged me and I’ve been thinking about it, it really comes down to efficiency. If there’s one thing I want people to take from it, and what we’re talking about today and what we talk about in the newsletter, efficiency is like the secret, really. The more efficient you can do something, the less waste you’ll put out there. I was able to figure out and I told him yesterday it’s really about combining errands. So when you’re on your way back from the football game that’s when you pick up the tube of toothpaste you would’ve got on Amazon. So it’s funny, doing this newsletter is educating me as well, and I’ve loved that about it, there’s always something new that you can do, and new that you can learn.
Scott: How much of your Swedish do you think is helping you realize that efficiency is an important part in saving the planet?
Olivia: Well, there’s definitely efficient design I suppose, that’s part of that heritage. And also, I mean I grew up, my mom is from Sweden, and she took me on hikes and cross-country skiing and backwoods, so that’s definitely had a major impact, and that’s had an impact on how I value the natural world, and I’m in awe. I mean I think it’s amazing, and there’s this design thing called bio-mimicry when you have a design challenge and you actually look to nature to find the answer, and you don’t copy it, but you learn from it. So for example if you had a fabric and you wanted to whisk away bugs, you might look at an animal that can whisk away bugs and on their skin and you would learn from that how you can apply that to your material, your bug-whisking away coat or something. So it’s just interesting, after billions of years of trial and error nature have all the answers. So it’s definitely been a big influence.
Scott: I think utility in this space, in a social responsibility space, is a new fresh way of thinking about it. Have you heard that from people you’ve kind of developed in Today We Will?
Olivia: Utility in bio-mimicry or using platforms like a newsletter?
Scott: The way you’re organizing the information, they way it’s so simple.
Olivia: That’s been a new trend. I’ve been studying how people talk about these potentially negative topics, global warming for example. What winning that communication is positive talking? The negative explanations of what’s happen and we’re doomed and all of this and the shaming, it doesn’t, nobody want to hear that. Nobody want o feel guilty about that. Not only that even if you do its paralyzing if you talk about it like that. So really it needs to be what can I do as an individual, that’s what people who want to help want to know. What can I do today? And for those who don’t know as much, its learning bit by bit, and not in a way that’s demoralizing, but just stating the facts. There’s going to be more bits of plastic than sea life in a couple of years that is a fact. Okay, one of the things we can do is reduce our plastic intake, and combining those two things with the problem and the solution is definitely the winning approach.
Scott: From the perspective of you as an individual, I mean, you always say you have a lot of balls in the air, what were some of the challenges you had to overcome, in order to get this out there. I know it’s not a complex algorithm and it’s not the perhaps at this moment the next twitter, but there’s something really interesting about what you’re doing. But how did you get from idea to making it happen, what did you have to do to get there?
Olivia: Not much, I mean, like I said I got the URL and put this out a year later. I quit my job, I quite copywriting and advertising to pursue what I was passionate about. I was clearly passionate about wanting to help the environment, so I applied for school, and now getting my MBA in sustainability, just finishing up my first semester doing that, and it was during this time that I been thinking about how I can have, I want to be as efficient about it as possible, I want to use the skills I already have. We’ve been in classes talking with amazing speakers, talking about the environment, the movement, they were talking about what they’ve done and just turning my wheels and thinking what can I do and sure I have a lot of balls up in the air, especially being in school now, and I just thought, today we will. This is something that I can do while I’m in school, as I’m learning about these sustainability tactics, I can share them with the world, as I’m doing them and sharing them with the world. So I realized that was how I could have an impact given my background in writing and digital platforms. I just remember coming home one day and telling my husband, I was like ‘you know, I think that Today We Will is what I can do for now’. I played around with it a bunch of different news platforms. I ended up with mail chimp for now and then made, in the process of making a backlog of tasks that we can do throughout the year, one of the questions a lot of people ask me is do you think you’ll exhaust all the things you can do in one year? Well so far I’ve been able to get though about 6 months and haven’t had any repeats so that’s good. Because they’re small tasks, so if today it’s not using straws, tomorrow it could be not using a plastic fork, because they’re such small tasks they’re doable, and I can stretch out idea for a long period of time. And I just sat down and started writing them and found a voice that felt right and a length that felt right, I sent one out to my husband who said the design was not acceptable, so I went back to the drawing board and redesigned it to what it is today. So yeah that’s how the idea kind of came into the product or the entity it is today.
Scott: What did your husband say that was wrong with the original design?
Olivia: It was the layout, it was just not, and I just kind of put all the words down without designing the flow of idea, of like, the flow of the words. So right now there are lines that break up the meat of the newsletter and the headline of the newsletter, so just little things like that, making it easier to read. I’m so glad he was honest about that because I think it makes a huge difference.
Scott: Are there moments in the last little while that stands out in your mind that is the craziest thing that happened when you started this movement?
Olivia: It’s been really cool to connect with other organizations. I think one of the challenges of any movement, whether it is the environmental or social justice movement, or any movement, is the lack of organization amongst the organizations. So getting emails from other organizations you say hey, we’d love to collaborate. Or maybe you could feature us in one of your daily newsletters, or we could host one of the tasks, and it would relate to what our cause is doing. That has been really cool, because it is something that’s so important and it goes over-looked. I mean it’s amazing that so many people are inspired to start their own organizations within a movement, but it’s so important to come together as one so that’s it’s not all segmented. The movement can move as one.
Scott: This has been really fascinating. I really enjoyed the chance to chat with you. In a nutshell, what is the email all about, if you were to sort of explain it in a very simple way?
Olivia: Today We Will is a daily impact newsletter. Every day, it sends out one small task, that when done by all, can have a big positive impact. You can find it at our website, at todaywewillnewsletter.com, and you’ll find that across any platform that we stand on. One of my favorite parts of it is everyone’s first mail, whether you sent it today or tomorrow or a year from now, would be to thank an unsuspecting person, and we do that because the only way we can feel like we’re all working together, is if we feel connected to each other, and appreciating each other does just that.
Scott: Well, Olivia Gossett Cooper, this has been fascinating, I’ve really enjoyed the chance to talk t you about your movement, and I think it’s fascinating, and I think a lot of people listening will learn a lot from your experience and the short time you’ve been working with this. But wonderful, thank you so much, you’re really inspiring.
Olivia: Thank you; I really appreciate the time and interest in Today We Will.
Scott: Yeah, it’s been great. Keep on trekking.
Olivia: I will, thank you.