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Lonely? Us too. Why companies should focus on creating connections, not buying them

When Jillian Richardson moved to New York City in 2011, she experienced what a lot of New Yorkers, nay most people, feel: Lonely.

In fact, according to a study by health insurer Cigna, nearly 50 percent of respondents reported feeling alone – or left out – always or sometimes.  Furthermore, the average person in the U.S. has only one close friend, and, as reported on by Fortune, according to census data, about a quarter of the population lives alone. Marriage rates and the number of kids per U.S. household are also dropping. On top of which, 75% of people say that they’re unsatisfied with their friendships. 

By all accounts, the world we live in is a very lonely place.

And Jillian has set out to change that.

The Joy List 

In 2016, Jillian launched The Joy List, a weekly newsletter that features New York events that people can attend completely alone without feeling awkward or out of place, with the goal that they leave with a new friend. Their mission: To make New York City, and eventually the world, less lonely.

Today, The Joy List has an audience of over 10,000. And with an open rate of over 60 percent, Jillian plans to expand the List to other cities this year. 

She also plans to release the Unlonely Planet, a book set to be published by New Degree Press in July about, you guessed it, loneliness-and how to combat it. 

But if you are a small – perhaps not yet well-known – brand, you have more flexibility in setting expectations with your customers from the beginning.

Creating a community, instead of faking one

In addition to event design, ideation and management, Jillian frequently helps “purpose-driven companies communicate their message in a simple and engaging way,” she said.

According to Jillian, in order for companies to effectively communicate and eventually market to an engaged audience, “community is the secret sauce.”

Here’s a summary of the event tips she shared with Medium on how to create community and loyalty after she spoke at the 2019 Startup Grind Global Conference:

1. Behavior Modeling: 

Jillian recounts attending festivals, summer camp and countless events prior to founding The Joy List and The Joy List Social, where she was completely alone. To combat loneliness at the events she hosts, she encourages organizers to model “the type of behavior that they want to see in their participants.” This demonstration invites people to join in, and creates the authenticity – because they’re doing it too! – that, Jillian thinks, is paramount to a successful, and engaging, event.

2. Clear “hurdle” rules: 

In Jillian’s opinion, “Any event that’s worth going to has at least one rule that will make some people uncomfortable.” Evergreen go-to’s for hurdle rules run the gamut from no drinking and no cell phones to everyone dressing in a similar color or type of clothing, like a onesie. She says the reasoning behind hurdle rules is twofold, “It gets people out of their comfort zone while also giving attendees the knowledge that they have at least one thing in common with everyone there.”

3. Unity through the obvious:

Stating the obvious can create a sense of unity at an event. Jillian gives this example: “You all gave your Saturday – half of your weekend – to be at this conference. That’s how much everyone in this room cares.” Calling attention to the obvious is a great kick-off technique to unite people around the reason why they’re gathered together. 

4. Greeting with intention:

“The most memorable events are thoughtfully designed from the start,” says Jillian. As the host, she highly recommends everyone receives a personal greeting as well as a brief rundown of things like the hurdle rule(s) and making sure everyone feels welcome, and comfortable. A great way to do this is by meeting each attendee with something tangible, like a piece of chocolate or a cup of tea.

Eager to learn more? Join Jillian for a CommonGenius exclusive webinar on Why companies should stop spending money on ads & invest in building community.

Can’t attend? We’ll make the recording available, but you can also book Jillian for a one-on-one meeting. Just go to, https://commongenius.com/expert-consultant/jillian-richardson. If you’re interested in learning more about Jillian, you can check out her personal website here.

Scott Graham

Mr. Graham is an expert in product development, growth marketing, and business strategy with past experiences as a successful entrepreneur, management consultant, and private equity portfolio marketer. He has spent the past several years developing and teaching growth marketing methodologies that integrate his deep knowledge in technology, cognitive behavior, and data analysis. His reputation for incubating new businesses and delivering innovative product advances has elevated him as a leader in the field. He is an author and frequent seminar lecturer...

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