Spinning 3 Websites in 6 Months

Good web design is like a spider web: what appears to be simple, functional, and delicate should also be intricate, elegant, and strong. And like an excited spider who’s just caught an unlucky fly, web design is one of those things that gets our team really fired up.

It requires the perfect mix of left and right brain — from planning the overall architecture of a site, to considerations about user experience and design, to coding and the final, fine-toothed top to bottom review. Over the last 6 months, 3 sites that we designed from the ground-up have gone live. These websites have ranged in complexity, breadth, and purpose. Keep reading to find out why we spun them!

1) RethinkWaste

RethinkWaste represents and manages the waste from 12 member cities in San Mateo County. SGA was brought on to redesign its website to improve usability and meet the communication needs of its service area community. After designing this new website from the ground up, here’s what Rethink had to say about us:

[box] “SGA, specifically the amazing Suzi, helped us not only meet our needs with an aesthetically pleasing and easy to navigate website on the front and back end, but they also created a custom section to house our important meeting agendas and staff reports. This has helped us improve our transparency as a public agency. Our new and improved website communicates, educates and engages with our community better than ever before.” — Julia Au, Outreach & Communications Manager, Rethink Waste[/box]

2) Lincoln Stormwater

The City of Lincoln’s Stormwater program used to be hosted on a small subsection of the City’s website. SGA was brought in to create a dynamic hub for stormwater-related information, resources, and content relevant to the city residents. In addition to the new website, which we designed to deliver simple, easy-to-understand messaging about stormwater management, we designed a new logo to cement the program’s credibility and integrity.

3) Bayfront Canal & Atherton Channel Flood Management and Restoration Project

The last site SGA recently worked on is a microsite for a flood management project occurring within several diverse communities that are subjected to annual flooding. The purpose of the site was to establish an official, designated area where the County of San Mateo could post project updates, and where residents could visit for up-to-date and reliable information. The site needed to be designed in a user-friendly way that remained intuitive across diverse audiences, clearly communicated the problem and proposed solution, and reduced the potential for uncertainty. You can view our work here.

Like our sites? Want to know more about their structure, our process, or availability to design your dream site? We’re listening! Email us at info@sga-inc.net.

5 Effective Persuasion Techniques

In a world of logic, persuasion would be a lost art. To state your case, you’d simply make an argument grounded in facts, trends, and case studies, and voilà, people would do the right thing. Litterbugs would learn that 80% of the trash floating around in our oceans starts on land, and—just like that—they’d never toss another gum wrapper on the sidewalk.
In reality, however, getting people to actually change their attitude and/or behavior requires finesse. The ultimate goal of every public outreach campaign is behavior change. By using the Community-based Social Marketing methodology at SGA, we’ve become pretty savvy on the best ways to get people to act differently.  Whether you’re trying to save the planet, convince your boss to kick in for a raise, or persuade your sister to watch your dogs for the weekend, these four techniques will help you get results.

Remember the rule of three.  People can hold a limited amount of information in our short term memory. Three bits of data is about the max, before we start getting fuzzy. What’s more, when we have to choose between too many options, we tend to get frustrated and back off from making a decision at all. Stick to threes. When crafting an argument or a message, give three reasons. When asking someone to make a decision, give only three options.

Establish a common ground. Science has shown we relate more strongly to people like us. This includes personal characteristics like gender, race, age and values, as well as seemingly random similarities. One study found that people were more likely to complete a survey when asked by someone with a similar name (e.g., Cindy Johnson and Cynthia Johanson) than a completely different one.

Say it simply. There are two key parts to this one. First, when you want something, just ask. We tend to think persuasion means trickery (it doesn’t) and that makes us weave an elaborate narrative instead of just coming out with it. And second, say it using straightforward, commonly used language. There’s no need to dust off the SAT vocabulary list to prove you’re deserving or intelligent or committed. Complicated language is more likely to confuse (and annoy) whoever you’re trying to convince.

Monkey see, monkey do. People tend to follow others (bandwagon effect) more when they don’t have sufficient information to make a decision on their own. Telling or showing your audience other people who are engaging in a similar behavior may make the difference. This could be done by spotlighting community champions in the area or getting a list of testimonials or endorsements for your cause.

Take the glass half full approach. Working on environmental issues means we come across a lot of heartbreaking data. From the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to the alarming rate of coral reef extinction worldwide, we’re up to our ears in the dark side of the story. But when we’re trying to change behavior in lasting ways, we stay positive. People want to feel good about the decisions they make. Focus on how their small action makes a huge difference or how this one change benefits them and aligns with their personal goals and criteria.

Sweet Santa Clara: What to do About a Sugary Problem?

Current American diets and lifestyles leave our minds highly susceptible to hijacking. Ever heard of glucose, fructose, sucrose, maltose, lactose, dextrose, and starch? They’re all sugars, and adding them to common food products is a cheap way of making those products more “craveable.” The problem with hiding sugar in popular drinks and foods is that over-consumption can lead to adverse health effects from liver and heart disease to diabetes and obesity.

The World Health Organization sets the healthy limit for annual sugar consumption at 20 pounds, but in a typical year the average American consumes 57. In Santa Clara County, an average of 31% of adolescents and 54% of adults are obese, but those numbers are even higher in the Latinx community where 41% of adolescents and 72% of adults are obese. The CDC has also reported that over their lifetime, over 50% of the Latinx community are expected to develop type 2 diabetes (compared to 40% of all US adults).
Seeking to address this growing public health crisis, the SCC Public Health Department tasked SGA to create an educational campaign exposing the negative effects of sugar found in various juices and other sugary drinks. The campaign goal was clear: influence the attitudes and intentions of Latinx adults regarding the number of sugary drinks (e.g. soda, sports drinks, etc) they provide to children in their care.

There’s one consistent truism when it comes to conducting outreach—listen first, then act.
The Cut The Sugar campaign placed a premium on listening to input from the priority population during ad development. In collaboration with a local community group, SOMOS Mayfair, SGA used focus groups in both Spanish and English as well as intercept surveys to develop the ad campaign. The feedback from this research guided the overall appearance, tone, and messaging to reflect subtle nuances that emerged as being necessary to effectively reach our priority audience. The multilingual Cut The Sugar campaign consisted of outdoor print ads, ad scripts for radio, and digital ads. There was also a public outreach component which featured large inflatable blow-ups and alternative drink tastings deployed at community events. These items opened the conversation about the health risks associated with excessive sugary drink consumption.
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In order to assess the impact and effectiveness of the campaign, intercept surveys were conducted to measure factors related to Latinx caregivers’ provision of sugary drinks to children in their care. These surveys were given to individuals in the same geographical location where the campaign ran over the course of three months and were then analyzed for statistical significance. Results were differentiated between people who had seen the ads (AKA exposed) and people who had not seen the ads (AKA comparison group). The main findings showed that:

  • People who were exposed to the Cut The Sugar campaign planned to give 46% fewer sugary drinks to children in their care than people who had not been exposed to ads.
  • 54% of respondents who saw the ads reported giving fewer sugary drinks to children in their care than they had at the same time the previous year, whereas only 20% of the comparison group reported a reduction in sugary drinks.
  • When asked to identify which of the beverages from a list were considered sugary drinks, people exposed to the ads were 33% more likely to be able to identify sugary drinks correctly than those in the comparison group./li>
  • 60% of respondents reported the most important motivator for reducing the number of sugary drinks they gave to children in their care was to decrease the risk of their child developing diabetes, with 42 respondents ranking this at #1 and 97% of respondents selecting this as a motivator.

Have questions about our data or approach? Feel free to email us at info@sga-inc.net.

How Do We Motivate Behavior Change?

In the late 1960s, Stanford University professor Walter Michel began his now classic “Marshmallow Experiments.” He offered four and five-year-olds a choice: they could either have one marshmallow now (he put it in front of them) or, if they waited 15 minutes, they could have a second.

Not surprisingly, most of the kids couldn’t wait and chose to gobble down the first marshmallow. But a few showed restraint. Michel observed that the children who waited to double their marshmallowy profits had found ways to distract themselves and focus on something else.

Michel followed these kids throughout school, college and into early adult-life, and found that (on average) the kids that could delay gratification did much better in school, at work, and even in their marriages than those who gobbled down that first marshmallow.

So what does this mean? It’s simple. Delayed gratification is difficult while instant gratification is obtainable and easy, making it hard to see the benefits of long-term payoffs. Saving money for retirement, exercising for optimum health, and making changes for the environment are all extremely difficult because we don’t get an instant pay off. We have to consciously work for something we cannot initially see.

Behavior change campaigns need to be conscious of this reality in order to be successful. Although most people can understand the long-term benefits of a change, changes like this are not as compelling as something with instant gratification. Successful behavior change campaigns allow audiences to celebrate small, incremental wins that bring them closer to the bigger picture and the overall goal.

Let’s take clean water, for example. Many people state that they are motivated to keep their creeks, rivers, bays, and oceans clean. That’s a huge goal and it can take a long time to see noticeable changes. But choosing to pick up your dog waste all the time in order to keep stormwater clean (and ultimately larger water bodies of water), is an incremental step towards accomplishing that larger goal. Personal barriers (like “I don’t have a bag,” and “other people leave their dog waste”) and motivators (“I want to be a good neighbor” and “this protects my kid”) are way more powerful when it comes to the smaller actions that contribute to the larger goal.

So how do you keep an audience engaged with a campaign goal as big as keeping the ocean clean? You use your resources and social media platforms to constantly motivate your audience by allowing them “little wins” that move everyone toward the larger goal.

Start conversations over social media that allow your audience to engage. If you’re trying to clean the ocean, encourage your followers to make Facebook pledges to pick up after their pets, and make your quippy sound-bites educational! Show your audience how their small actions will collectively make a big difference, all while helping keep lawns lush and shoes clean.

Always think big—but remember to start small and add on from there. Count every step, celebrate every win, and make it a big deal! Despite how far a single action/change may feel from a long-term goal, celebrating the little wins keeps your audience engaged and ready for the big win up ahead.

Sports and Essential Communication Lessons: What Football Taught Me About Marketing

Walking through my neighborhood on a Sunday morning is no longer a time for quiet self-reflection. House after house, cheers of excitement and shouts of anger escape through insulated walls and double-paned glass. This can only mean one thing: it’s football season. The bright flat screens that peak through neighbor’s windows and the individuals glued to it all sport matching jerseys as they high-five or fist pump in unison. Sports, like football, are an incredible study of human behavior, especially with all that you can learn and apply to concepts such as communications and marketing. Here are a few you may find intriguing:

1.) Play to Group Identity: Football season combines the power of patriotism with the addiction of being a sports fan. In his book “The Righteous Mind,” Jonathan Haidt talks about humans having a “Hive Switch,” in essence where people naturally move from self-identity to group identity.  It is not only a very seductive and powerful shift, but an important thing to remember when communicating with people. Reaching out to people through their group identity is an extremely powerful way to reach your audience.

2.) The Power of Emotions: I have to admit I am not a huge football fan but when I am at my parents house sitting next to my very serious Dallas Cowboy fan of a father you bet I am screaming at the TV screen as much as anyone else in the room. The community you form wherever you may be to watch a game—whether it’s at a family member’s home, a restaurant, a bar, or the electronics section at Target—is riveting. You catch yourself hugging strangers, yelling at your cousin, and standing on furniture that you definitely shouldn’t be standing on. It plays on your emotions: excitement, anger, happiness, fear, suspense. It brings us together despite who we are and what we look like. If you speak through emotions you can motivate and communicate in ways you did not believe possible.

3.) The Addiction of Suspense: One of the reasons I believe football is so popular in the US is because most games are equally matched and aren’t determined until the final minutes of the fourth quarter. Football games often have scores that are neck and neck separated by a touchdown or just a single field goal, and it makes you watch to that very last minute of the game (and sometimes overtime). So the audience has to deliberate: can their team make a miracle field goal or Hail Mary pass, or is it over? We are naturally drawn to suspense, we want to know what will happen, how things will change. While we always want to be clear in our communications, sometimes holding off on the punchline and building the drama of the outcome is a great way to engage your audience.

So here’s to football. Here’s to engaging communications. And here’s to finding an excuse to join a group of strangers on an autumn day to root for your favorite team.

3 Steps to Pedal Forward and Make Positive Change

May 19th is Bike to Work Day!  At SGA, we believe that bicycling is a great way to demonstrate behavior change. Remember when you were a kid and you first learned how to ride a bike?  At first, you were scared: Don’t let me fall!  Of course, you fell.  But then you got back up because you were motivated: Learn to ride a bike by yourself.  This whole process involved removing barriers, while promoting motivators. In essence, the steps needed to change behavior.

So how do you remove barriers to get people to bike more or to get them to change? Here are three wheely good ways to overcome barriers:

1) Remove the perceived danger of riding by making the experience positive. A short bike ride can:

  • Break down old perceptions: hard and scary
  • Create new perceptions: easy and fun

2) To overcome resistance, start with baby steps. Overcoming one small step of the task is easier than tackling the whole task at one time.

3) Make bicycling a social norm. Get beginners to team up with other bike riders.  If they are the only person riding, it feels odd, but if they see more people doing it, the more normal it becomes.

While it’s important to overcome barriers, it’s also crucial to promote the motivators. We asked SGA staff what their motivations were to bike to work. Here’s what they said:

“I love riding my bike to work. I ride to work to help create a friendly biking culture in Long Beach. Our city has this big goal of being named as the most bike-friendly city in America. It’s up to us to make this dream happen.”  Joy Contreras

“Biking to work makes me feel good, charges me with positivity, and allows me to enjoy the outside. I also want to show my daughter that cars aren’t the only way of transportation, especially for short distances.” Anya Liddiard

“I ride to get one less car off the road and a little bit less carbon going into the air. I ride 10 miles each way which gives me time to clear my mind and gets in my daily exercise in one fell swoop.”  Stephen Groner

Changing behavior isn’t easy, but it can be done.  Remember, change is like riding a bicycle. Hard at first, but easier as you practice.

Learn How Effective Messaging Can Shape Pro-Environmental Behaviors

What messaging do you think works better: “Help save the environment,” or “Join your fellow citizens in helping to save the environment?” If your answer was the second choice, then you’re in agreement with research that shows specific messages — the right specific messages — are much more likely than abstract messages to shape behavior.   At SGA, crafting the right messaging is what we do.  Whether it’s recycling or water conservation, we have a good understanding of the psychological drivers of pro-environmental behavior.

In celebration of World Parks Week, we want to share our approach on how to establish positive environmental behavior changes as social norms in protecting one of our most cherished national treasures: parks.  While we encourage more people to visit parks or appreciate nature more, we want them to do so in an environmentally-friendly manner.  How can this be achieved?  By making environmentally-conscious behavior a social norm.  From our years of experience, we have learned how to harness the power of social norms and social motives to encourage behavior change.  When people are figuring out what to do in a new situation, they take their cues from what seems to be other people’s normal behavior — the social norm. Thus, messages that say, “Everybody’s doing it!” to promote conservation-minded actions tend to be most effective.

Norms can be injunctive (i.e. most people approve of taking steps to protect parks) or descriptive (i.e. most people take steps to save parks). Our experience has shown that creating a social norm works best when injunctive norms are aligned with descriptive norms (most people both approve of this behavior and actually do this behavior). To apply this principle to protecting our parks, instead of saying “Stay on trail,” we would make it a social norm and say, “Join the many who have stayed on the trail to help protect the park and natural vegetation.” Even a slight variation in wording can shape behavior powerfully. That’s why crafting the right messaging is important.

So the next time you want to want to encourage behavior change, think about adopting the power of social norms into your messaging.  Given the urgency of conserving natural resources, this approach can help all interested parties, public and private, to more effectively promote pro-environmental behaviors.

Learn How Renewable and Raw Materials Like Hemp Can Save the Earth

Let’s start by saying SGA hasn’t been watching a Cheech and Chong marathon and no, we don’t have the munchies.  With Earth Day just around the corner, we wanted to bring awareness to the many ways that hemp can help save the environment.

Unfortunately, hemp gets lumped in with its notorious cousin, marijuana (Cannabis sativa). The truth is that while hemp is derived from the same family of plants as marijuana, it comes from Cannabis sativa L strains that contain less than 1% THC, meaning hemp carries no psychoactive properties.

Over the years, a hemp revival has taken shape. Perceptions have shifted, especially among business owners, farmers, nutritionists, activists, and green consumers. As a renewable and raw material, hemp can be incorporated into many products, making them more eco-friendly. Even the hemp flowers and seeds can be used, leaving nothing to waste. Here are more reasons why hemp’s environmentally-friendly characteristics make it a sustainable wonder crop.

  • It’s a farmer’s best friend. Not only does hemp grow in a variety of climates and soil types, it doesn’t require a lot of space and its fast growth rate produces high yields. Because the crop improves soil health, no fallow period is needed to grow food crops.
  • It’s an environmentalist’s best friend. The hemp plant grows like a “weed” so there is no need for most pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides (it is naturally resistant to most pests). Hemp also thrives on less water than most crops and has also been proven to remove toxins, radioactive materials, and metals from contaminated soil. When planted around the infamous nuclear disaster site Chernobyl, scientists found that hemp conducted phytoremediation, which is the process of removing the chemicals from soil, better than any other plant.
  • It can compete with cotton. Hemp has been used as a durable fabric since time immemorial. As a textile, hemp needs approximately half as much land and half as much water as cotton does to thrive. Cotton is the largest user of water among all agricultural commodities. It can take 2,700 liters to produce the cotton needed to make a single t-shirt.
  • It’s a superfood. Hemp seeds are used in a variety of health foods, including hemp seed butters, hemp seed energy bars, hemp oil, and even hemp seed milks. The seeds have a nutty flavor and are regarded as a superfood since they are high in omega-3 fatty acids and are a complete protein.
  • It could save the trees. Hemp pulp has been used to create paper for at least 2,000 years. The Declaration of Independence was drafted on hemp paper, and even the finest Bible paper today remains hemp-based.

So this Earth Day, don’t let our environment go up in smoke…switch to a renewable product that will help save the environment, leaving a cleaner and greener planet for the next generation.

How Consuming and Wasting Less Means Living More

Take the opportunity of a fresh, new spring season to reaffirm your environmental goals. One way you can become an environmental hero is by reevaluating ways in which you can reduce waste in your everyday life. According to a study conducted by Duke University, the average person generates 4.3 pounds of waste per day. That’s about the weight of three basketballs per person being thrown into landfills every day.  We are producing 1.6 pounds more than what was produced per person back in 1960. But don’t despair! Spring is all about renewal, so here are a few beginning steps that you can take to make a difference:

Avoid Disposables

  • Bring a portable reusable bag with you everywhere you go or at least have it readily accessible in the car. If you go shopping, you’ll be able to easily retrieve your reusable bag. Next time the cashier asks plastic or paper, your response will be “I have my own bag.”
  • Bring a portable water bottle with you. Not only will you save money, you will break the cycle of plastic consumption.

Buy/Wear Second-Hand Whenever Possible

  • Fast fashion is the second biggest polluter in the world next to oil. Clothing made via the fast fashion method are not durable. As we buy more and more of these types of clothing, we are increasing our consumption of unsustainable clothes.
  • Visit thrift stores to find unique clothing while saving some money and the environment
  • Borrow clothes from friends or set up a clothing exchange where everyone can share items together. Not only will you expand your style options, you’ll also make a tangible effect on the amount of pollution produced by new clothing manufacturing.

Make the Transition to Digital

  • Cancel paper subscriptions of magazines and newspapers and switch to digital
  • Use audiobooks and ebooks. If you must have a paper copy, visit the thrift store to give old books another life.

The less we consume the less we waste. You don’t have to aim for a perfect, zero-waste lifestyle. Every little bit of trash that is diverted counts. So the next time the waiter asks if you need a straw, just say “No thanks.”

The Cause Marketing Approach to Life: Anya Liddiard

Meet Anya Liddiard, our primary Marketing Manager on LA Stormwater, whose life trajectory followed the question: What can I contribute to make the world a little better? A native Russian who holds advanced degrees in Economics and Mass Communications from Virginia Commonwealth University, Anya later relocated to the West Coast, even though she initially didn’t like the weather in California. Today, you can find her enjoying California’s splendors with her family and upcycling abandoned furniture. “I’m that person that drives and picks up interesting items off the street to repurpose them. It is my way to consume less,” Anya says.

Her passion for sustainability and cause marketing has been successfully harnessed while working at her previous marketing and advertising jobs with NBC and E! Networks, Tesla, and Hyundai. Today, she brings her experience and her belief that doing good is good business to SGA.

Here’s what she has learned along the way:
I come from the fast world of traditional advertising and I have always been driven to find that component to do good in this world. Throughout my journey I have developed a certain approach to my life and my work.

Go Beyond Consumerism: Encourage people to buy more than the product and get behind a positive cause. While working at Hyundai, I was challenged to ask deeper questions. How can someone benefit from this company rather than just motivating people to buy our product?

Go Beyond Promotion: Promote positive behavior change. Find ways to challenge yourself and change people’s behavior for the benefit of all. Search for patterns and opportunities to solve brands’ business problems by adding value to the world, even if it’s as small as motivating people at work to use one paper towel at a time.

Go Beyond Messaging: Make people think differently. Find ways to help brands and consumers prove who they are through the actions they take. This could mean creating meaningful partnerships, acting on a cause, creating inspiring ideas of social change or simply giving reusable water bottles for people’s birthdays (been there, done that!).

Above all, the most important approach to my life lies in my daughter. I began Russian in the Park in Long Beach to immerse my daughter in her culture while getting families together to celebrate Russian culture.  As a mother, I am lovingly driven by the needs of my daughter and hope to keep her interested in her culture and language.