I’m a huge fan of behavioral economics. It’s a geeky interest, I know. But, I find the subject fascinating–and eerily relevant to my job as a communications professional.
According to Wikipedia, behavioral economics is the study of how social, cognitive and emotional factors impact the economic decisions of individuals and institutions. Said another way, it’s insight on how individuals and groups make choices.
Often, this insight is the information PR teams need to design programs that tie back to business goals. When we know how our end-audiences make decisions, we can build a program that motivates them to act.
This is good news for the PR profession. It’s hard to measure the ROI of awareness. It’s much easier to measure the ROI of action.
If you’re interested in building behavioral economics into your next program, here are six important steps to consider:
- Spend time up-front understanding your audiences’ pre-conceptions and points of conflict/ambivalence. Frame communications to appeal to emotion as well as logic. (Opinion Leaders: Dan Ariely, Daniel Kahneman).
- Understand and leverage the importance of how choices are presented (in terms of order, comparisons, associations). (Opinion Leaders: Richard Thaler, Charles Duhigg, Jonah Lehrer).
- Create natural on-ramps (or nudges) to make it easy for audiences to do the right thing. (Opinion Leaders: Richard Thaler, Chip and Dan Heath).
- Never under-estimate the conflict that’s built into our brains about topics that seem easy and intuitive. Try to bring conflict into alignment. (Opinion Leaders: Daniel Kahneman,Chip and Dan Heath).
- Play. Bring light-heartedness into the decision process. (Opinion Leader: Daniel Pink).
- Make it meaningful. Underscore the big opportunity or purpose of the journey. (Opinion Leaders: John Kotter, Daniel Pink).
Of course, behind each of these steps, there are bodies of research and nuance. Taken together, they nonetheless offer a road-map for communicators looking to generate measurable action.
How are you using behavioral economics in your organization?
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