Building the right message for behaviour change

In our third series to bring behaviour change science closer to professionals working in coexistence, we want to continue the journey by taking you through a few pointers to help you build the right message for behaviour change.

March 2, 2021

The formative research done on your audience will define the messages and strategies of your communication campaign to promote coexistence. However, there are a few universal insights that you should keep in mind when framing your message.

Once you know your audience, framing messages to their values, identities or interests will highly help. When you tailor messages to make them relevant to the audience, you make the message heard, felt and understood. We all have our perspectives of the world, and communication messages should blend in that. 

For instance, not everyone understands or cares about sustainability. The audience might not have adequate knowledge or might be too poor to care about the future. The message should not talk about sustainability but rather reflect what the community cares about. The formative research will have the answer, may that be security, health or wealth. 

After shaping the message, it is important to personalize it and humanize it as much as possible. See how the message can relate to the local people or geographical area. Attach the messaging to a context to feel personally relevant to the audience and support your message with a known human face.

If you just communicate, you can get by, but if you communicate skillfully, you can work miracles – Jim Rohn

You also want to consider addressing specific cognitive biases in the message. Every audience has. The most common one, which is almost rooted in the human being, is loss aversion. Humans are more afraid of losing something than excited about gaining an equivalent something. Therefore, if your message can highlight the avoidance of losses rather than the potential gains, this can tap into the cognitive biases and drive change.

In the same line, most communities have a strong structure. To be accepted in the community, humans often change behaviour to adapt to the social norm. Shaping your message in a way that makes you feel excluded if you don’t change can be the silver lining. Just make sure you don’t frame the message negatively, as negative messages don’t work as good as positive messages, and you also don’t want to play with people’s emotions. Instead, try saying something around the lines of “your neighbours are already protecting elephants” to ignite curiosity and willingness to change to fit in.

**Note this is the third article of a series to be published around Behaviour Change. Stay tuned and don’t miss out on the upcoming articles!

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