How to use behavioral sciences in public relations and communications? (2/2)

In the first part of this article, I gave an overview of behavioral sciences and their impact on public relations and communication campaigns and programs. Let’s go a little further in our “Q & A” on the subject.

4. How can we use learning behavioral sciences in communication?

There are many ways to put them into practice. Here are some summary leads:

  • Affirmation: Do you remember the first debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump? Is there something that you remember? As far as I’m concerned, I was particularly attentive when they were asked to name qualities of their opponent. This is a tactic called “affirmation”. According to researchers Brendan Nyhan of Dartmouth College and Jason Reifler of Exeter University, if you compliment your opponents, they and their followers will be more willing to change their views on an issue. That makes the famous English expression “flattery will get you nowhere” lie!
  • Reframing: How to convince people opposed to your point of view? Nothing is more effective than reframing an issue according to their values, says researcher Peter Sandman of Rutgers University. He gave the example of this campaign to persuade construction workers to wear safety helmets. Many resisted, often out of pride, while they had always done their work with courage, without accident… and without a helmet! Wearing protection was a sign of weakness. The solution was the introduction of a new rule prohibiting the wearing of helmets in low risk sites on the site. So, only workers who were sufficiently qualified and brave enough to work in dangerous places were now wearing helmets. They now called themselves “hard hats”.
  • History: Finally, and this is a widely held idea now, research shows that our brains are not made to understand logic or retain facts for a very long time. They are designed to understand and remember stories. According to Melanie Green, social psychologist at the University of North Carolina, when people are absorbed in a story, they no longer pay attention to the world around them and focus their thoughts, emotions and mental images on the story. As a result, she says, they become more open to persuasion, providing an opening for effective communication, especially on topics they might otherwise be resistant to.

The Institute of Public Relations presents a series of very interesting articles if you want to continue your discovery of behavioral sciences related to communications and public relations. Also, if you have other good examples, do not hesitate to share them.

Marie-Josée Gagnon About the author
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