Spanning the globe for insights into human behavior and persuasion.



Use Stories to Persuade

As my company prepares to roll out a new initiative, my colleagues came together last week to be briefed on the communications plans for the initiative. The meeting included reviewing the usual communication suspects: scripts, talking points, letters, Q&A, news releases and a few videos. I have been privy to a lot of the planning, so I knew about the basics. But I was surprised by my reaction to the video clips; the videos brought to the surface some poignant emotions.

Despite the fact that I already knew the message, despite the fact that I was on board with the rationale behind the initiative, the stories told in the videos buttressed what I believed, and catalyzed my commitment. Since then, it has occurred to me that I expererienced, once again, the persuasive power of storytelling.

I don't know what it is about us that loves a good story, but we do. As I mentioned a few months ago, storytelling is marketing's killer app, a skill every marketer will need to have developed as customers gravitate to products and services with which they feel a connection. Here are a few of my recent thoughts on stories:

All stories aren't created equal. The stories that have pathos, authenticity and a good plot will win out.

The individual components of the story aren't enough to make it compelling; it matters how its told. The stories I heard last week were told via video, some were narrated, others were composed of images, words and music, but they all had a "voice" with which the audience could connect.

The telling of the story isn't nearly as important as telling a story that fits the worldview of your audience. I learned this from George Lakoff's "Don't Think of an Elephant": we're more likely to accept a message if it fits the way we think of the world. Going back to my experience of last week, I was ready to be inspired by the videos because they fit the values I have about work and life.



Memo from a First Amendment-loving Prude

It's not very often that I disagree with Jeff Jarvis. Today, I do. He dismissed an expert's testimony on pornography because she was "prude" from Utah. I'm offended, and not just because I could be classified in the same category.

Jill Manning, a sociology professor at BYU, testified before Congress this week that pornography is addictive. That makes her a prude. Forget that she's a tenured professor citing scientific research--BYU's not a party school.

Look, pornography's addictive. And just like addiction to alcohol or drugs or gambling or sex, addiction to porn makes people selfish, deluded and myopic. So what? Pornography may not present the same public health risk as drugs and alcohol, but it can have a devastating effect on relationships. I know of marriages that were ruined and families that were torn apart because of it.

I respect and admire Jeff's passion for freedom and the First Amendment. I'm going to go out on a pretty strong limb and guess that he's afraid that Congress is going to try use these hearings to limit speech. Here we agree; that would be a bad idea.

But the current situation is untenable. I don't want to see pornography. I want to protect my children from it. I want to vote with my feet. I can easily avoid movies and television shows and magazines that show nudity and portray sex. But it's not as easy with the Internet. How can I make an informed choice if I don't know what I'm getting before I click through?

The Web needs a rating system. Spare me the arguments about feasibility and censorship. We have the technology. Search engines have indexed just about all the content out there. Google already has an algorithm for safe search. I don't think Google or anyone else should decide for me or anyone else what's indecent. But I want to have the tools to decide for myself. There's a way to make a fair, open source, libertarian rating system. But is there a will?



Translating the Boomer Psyche

David Wolfe, author of the forthcoming book Firms of Endearment and the blogger behind "Ageless Marketing," published today the ninth segment of his "DNA of Behavior" series. I mention this for two reasons: first, I'm keeping my "brand promise" (see GrokMart subtitle); second, it's to inform one of my loyal readers (my sister, bless her heart) that she should study David's wisdom. In my opinion, he's an authority on marketing to baby boomers, and if I'm not mistaken, sis, that's your market.



Whither the News Chopper?

While waiting for the bus, I noticed a local news helicopter has made about three passes overhead. Knowing a little about the cost of fuel, manpower and maintenance for helicopters, I feel safe in saying it ain't cheap to do that fancy bit of flying.

The future of news media is a huge topic in the blogosphere. It's something Jeff Jarvis blogs about nearly every day, and plenty of others join in the conversation. What do they see in their crystal balls? In the words of the new INXS, "it ain't pretty." Declining reach, trust and revenues are making it more difficult to do journalism. Jarvis says the "media" (a term swiftly becoming a misnomer thanks to the Internet) needs to concentrate more on the basics of journalism:
Start with the real goals, which are informing society, keeping power in check, improving people’s lives, making connections (right?), then ask what the best ways are to do that today.
Doesn't really take a helicopter to do any of that.

(My apologies to my English teaching father for using the forbidden contraction in this post not once, but twice.)



Blogger, Heal Thyself

According to this MSNBC story, some physicians are encouraging their patients to blog using a certain hospital website. The premise is that patients can heal more quickly if they have an outlet to express their emotions while undergoing treatment. Cool.

I ran across a hospital system doing this exact same thing as I was building a case for blogs as communications/PR tools for my company. If I remember correctly, a North Carolina system implemented this program based on research that showed that when patients write about their treatment, they experience better outcomes.

Too bad I can't find out easily if this story comes out of the aforementioned hospital system--the article doesn't say. Heck, the article doesn't even include a link referencing the featured patient's blog. Great story, bad journalism.


Welcome to the Club

Jeri Cartwright is blogging. Don't know her? Neither do I, but I know of her. She's well known in Utah PR circles. The mere fact that she's putting effort into a blog will help a lot of PR folks in these parts see blogs as a legitimate PR tool. Giddyup.

Hi Jeri, I'm Don. Keep up the great work.


Good Publicity

The Utah Transit Authority decided to honor Rosa Parks today by having all their buses turn on their headlamps from 9 to 11 am. Now, I'm not so naive that I don't see this as a publicity stunt. Nor am I so cynical that I think UTA is being disingenuous. In my eyes, UTA's practicing good, simple, honest PR.




In honor of my reenergized desire to blog, I've thrown out the blue and green Blogger template. I know. This new template's quite blah. But it is easier to customize--not as much clutter through which to sift. I'm not a designer, so don't expect anything fancy.

BTW, thanks to the elegant Vagablog software and due to the fact that Blogger is free, I'm sticking with the pretentiously named GrokMart for now.


Vagablog Rules!

Just downloaded Vagablog, an open source moblogging tool for Palm. My mobile problem--the inability to efficiently submit HTML-coded posts--is solved. Vagablog is missing some features I'd like (hey, if I knew how to program I'd try to improve it), but it's much better than working through any of Blogger's three methods for mobile posting. My thanks to Mike Rowehl for making his software freely available.


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