How many times have you heard “We’ve got to tell our story to the public. We need to make them understand our position. If they could only see the ‘big picture’”? The assumption is that if we can just get our target public to understand, they will do what we want them to do.
But there’s a big flaw in that assumption writes Kerry Tucker and Bill Trumpfheller in the recently released second edition of McGraw-Hill’s “The Handbook of Strategic Public Relations and Integrated Marketing Communications,” edited by Clark Caywood of Northwestern University.
For the most part, people don’t care about an organization’s problems. They’ve got enough of their own. And simply communicating information to obtain a desired behavior rarely works. More than 30 years of research across a wide range of disciplines and issues have shown providing information alone on an issue, product or service will not significantly change the behaviors of a given public.
While people naturally resist change; communications strategies and messages (and tactics) can be organized to increase the odds of breaking through the information clutter we all face daily. They can do so by contrasting existing behavior, facilitating discomfort with existing behavior and offering help in adopting a new action.
Nuffer, Smith, Tucker’s proprietary framework to evaluate communications against behavioral principles is organized around four basic questions (internally, we call this “The Model”):
1. What is the need, concern or interest for the target audience?
2. Is the desired behavior clearly packaged as a credible solution to the need, concern or interest?
3. Have you presented the benefits of action and consequences of inaction to create discomfort for the current behavior?
4. Have you helped the target audience mentally rehearse the desired behavior? Have you included a call to action?
Public relations campaigns systematically strategized, packaged and delivered to target publics with specific, supportive behavioral outcomes stand a much better chance of breaking through today’s clutter and moving the proverbial needle, writes Tucker and Trumpfheller.