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Monday, December 12, 2011

LinkedIn post about communication and persuasion

I am going to start making posts on proper communication strategies because I am going to re-read a book called "Made to Stick."  This book discusses effective communication methods that can be used by someone seeking to become much more persuasive and a better communicator whose ideas are memorable.  In the near future, I will be sharing the ideas discussed in the book through several entries.  In the meantime, I wanted to share a post I made in a LinkedIn discussion thread.

The author of the discussion asked:

"If you were in charge of a media campaign to encourage the public to save water/change their attitude, how would you go about getting message over?"

To which I replied:

"I would first consult the communication literature to see which kinds of ideas are the most effective and "sticky." The book "Made to Stick" by Chip Heath and Dan Heath outlines numerous ideas on how to make your ideas convincing and memorable. For instance, one way of making an impression on your audience is eliciting an emotional response through the use of humor, shock, sadness, or any other kind of emotion you can utilize. By tapping into people's emotions, you will be able to connect to them on a deeper and more visceral level. This will allow your message to be that much more convincing and effective. 

That is just one tactic for effective communication. There are many more out there. But, the underlying principle still stands. To be an effective communicator, you must first consult the vast effective communication literature. This will allow you to be well versed in being as persuasive as possible.

From my own personal research on communication aimed at changing environmental behavior and attitudes, I have found that fear and a sense of danger are effective emotions, AFTER you have localized the problem for your target audience. For instance, you can't simply say "global warming is causing havoc all over the world." You have to localize it to your audience and say something like "here is what we think are the local effects of global warming in the area YOU live in." This makes it much easier for your audience to identify and connect with the issue. The problem is no longer a vague global issue that they feel they can do nothing about. The problem's effects are now local and your audience hopefully realizes that their local actions will have an effect, even if in reality the effect of local measures might be minuscule on a global scale. But that's kind of the point when it comes to environmental behaviors, you can't view your actions in an individual setting, you have to view them as part of a bigger whole. 

I live in California, so I will use the water issues there as an example. To get people to conserve more water, I would focus on the dangers of droughts and how extreme the situation can get if there is a prolonged doubt. To survive through such periods, conservation measure must be top notch and additional programs must be in place to conserve and have water stored for emergencies. I would emphasize how individual water-wasting has negative effects in the audience's own State and how such behavior, if common among the population in general, can have disastrous effects on water supplies as a whole."

What I have attempted to do here is start applying some of ideas covered in the book "Made to Stick."  I will discuss the authors' ideas in further detail and more directly in future posts.

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