By Elizabeth Edwards, President and Founder, Volume Public Relations
The world is noisy place.
How many messages have you seen today? Definitely more than you can remember. Between social media, advertisements on your commute and the brands you see other people wearing and using throughout the day, the average person sees between 3,000 to 20,000 messages in a single day.
We are constantly bombarded with messages, but we can’t process them all.
The human brain can hold roughly 7 things for 20 seconds — and we have about 70,000 thoughts each day. Combine those thoughts with all of the other messages competing for attention, and communicators truly have an uphill battle.
Everyone recognizes we suffer from information overload, but as communicators we must find the way through, rather than become just another contributor to all the noise.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
Science has given us the knowledge to communicate in a way that is more precise if we intentionally set out to respect the laws of human behavior. A surgeon wouldn’t operate on a patient without understanding how the body works. So why as communicators do we develop messages and communicate with audiences without understanding how it impacts their brain and behaviors?
Let Science Guide You.
First, take a step back from our brand language. We are all human beings communicating with other human beings. Stop focusing on what you are trying to say, and start focusing on what makes your audience tick, what stirs their hearts and emotions?
Second, look at what drives your audiences, beyond demographic data. What motivates them, encourages them, or makes them act?
The cognitive and behavioral science disciplines have a great deal to teach us about core human motivations. One principle widely understood and in play around us, is “Social Proofs.”
This theory is the driver behind celebrity endorsements, and the reason we can’t pick a restaurant without first heading to Yelp.
Human beings are wired to mimic the behavior of people they believe are like them.
Social Proof’s Measure Impact
To calculate just how powerful social proofs are at affecting behavior, a study was done surrounding hotel towel recycling. The question? Would guests recycle their towels more if the request to do so was presented within a social proof framework?
The hotel had been using a standard message: “please reuse your towels,” scientists knew they could make an impact.
Scientists changed the message to: “Guests of this hotel frequently reuse their towels to help save water.”
Social proof was leveraged by referencing “guests of this hotel,” and recycling was increased by 26%.
Then they replaced the message with: “Guests of this room reuse their towels to help save water.”
Specific social proof was used by referencing “guests of this room,” and recycling increased 33% over the standard message.
Social proofs are not magic bullets, however, and when used incorrectly, can backfire. Take for example the Arizona Petrified Forest. They used it to combat theft in the forest, by placing signs around the park that said: “Many past visitors have removed the petrified wood from the park, changing the natural state of the Petrified Forest.”
People were compelled by the social proof of “many past visitors” and instead of stopping theft, they increased it, by 7.92%.
Even though the sign was asking people not to steal, park visitors became aware that “everyone else” was stealing wood, and they didn’t want to be left out.
Communication is a combination of art and science.
Science has provided us with an incredible blueprint, but communicators have to be willing to listen to the laws that are laid out.
When you arm yourself with the knowledge of human behavior, and understand how the brain works, you can create more precise communication and respect the laws of your audiences behavior.
Challenge yourself and your team to communicate with your audiences like never before.
We’re all human beings, let’s start talking to each other more like humans and less like information portals.