Triggering an emotional response is often presented as the holy grail of successful communications – stories are a shortcut to the human heart, and all that blah (I’m feeling nauseous already). To accept the emotional argument entirely is like saying we’re all just chimpanzees awash in hormones.
Think about this for a moment. How often have you been moved by a story – touched at an emotional level – but no matter how much you try, you can’t remember the storyteller, brand or company it came from? Don’t worry, it happens to all of us.
Creating great content that cuts through the infobesity epidemic were experiencing and wins over the hearts and minds of your audience isn’t just about great stories. Standout content is a bit more complex than that.
When customers respond with doubt and caution, they’re often given emotional labels like ‘cynical’, ‘mistrusting’ and ‘indifferent’. The fact is, and I use that word intentionally, that most people today think critically because that’s how we’ve been taught to think. Facts and emotions – the heart and the mind – are inseparable when it comes to persuading people to accept ideas, concepts or things.
Vaccines and the communications failure
When a person has accepted a particular viewpoint, they will resist change. They will defend it fiercely. They will look for information to support their view, and ignore what doesn’t.
Let’s look at, for instance, vaccinations – to get your child vaccinated or not? It is a highly emotive subject. People who have taken the decision not to vaccinate their kids won’t be swayed by emotional story examples of what happens to unvaccinated children, and those around them – they believe the consequences of vaccination are far greater. They will defend their position to the death.
But researches have demonstrated that it’s unwise to contradict existing messages. Even emotional appeal won’t work.
Instead, present a new message that has both logical and emotional appeal. Let’s look at a real life example, part of my story, a true story, I can share to demonstrate why it is important to appeal to the heart and the mind when you need to be persuasive.
I was born in Africa (can you tell from my accent?).
My brother Wilfred was five years old when he died from polio. My brother Edward has a deformed foot and hand, and struggled to find work. Today, Edward lives on the streets – nobody has seen him in years. So you can imagine my delight when in 2016 we saw the lowest ever number of children paralysed by polio in history.
Three strains of the wild poliovirus, type 2, have been eradicated, and type 3 hasn’t been seen since 2012 – eradication is closer than ever. But, being on the brink of victory is not enough. More work needs to be done.
Still, 16 million people are alive today because of vaccinations. Just not Wilfred.
Personally, I didn’t know that Wilfred and Edward’s story – more my mother’s story than mine – touched me quite as much as it did. But I realise I’ve written a number of blogs about vaccines and how the medical establishment have failed dismally in their attempts to halt a fall in vaccination rates. Their communications are dry, official, patronising – lacking both emotional and rational appeal.
The truth is, sadly, that the anti-vaccination lobby have presented a better argument, wrapping both logical and emotional appeal into one coherent position.
It doesn’t matter what you are trying to get people to believe, accept, buy or consider – even if you’re not trying to change the world – humans are complex creatures, respect them by creating considered content that presents facts and emotions together.
Not one or the other.
If you want to learn how to win hearts and minds and create great standout content, book here today for my Content Creation Masterclass. I look forward to meeting you there.