Inform or influence?

September 6, 2010



I was walking my dog yesterday and came across this sign which made me smile and also reminded me so much of what we try and do in business every day.  

So often in business we are stating what we believe is the bleeding obvious and yet we get so little cut through and so little recall.  Most of us can barely remember what we ate for lunch yesterday let alone what was said in a meeting two weeks ago.  What then is the solution?  Research and our own personal experience inform us that ‘emotion is the fast track to the brain’ i.e. how I feel, affects how I think and my performance.

The people who crafted this sign were trying to influence our behaviour with emotion (humour)…and we all hope they succeed!  Often in business we think logic informs people (which it does) but we also expect people to shift behaviour based on logic.   And when this doesn’t happen we get frustrated.    If logic did persuade us to change our behaviour then no one would speed, we would all eat right and exercise every day, no one would smoke etc. 

As business people every day we make choices with our communication – are we trying to just inform or are we trying to influence behaviour?   If it is the latter then what emotion can you tap into to influence your audience?  This isn’t manipulative but shows empathy for your audience as well as an understanding of the issue from their perspective.

Here is a link to some recent work place safety ads that did this really well and tapped into the right emotion with their tag line and message:  ‘The real reason to be safe at work is not at work it is at home’.

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