Communicators Beware: Why Do People Make Bad Choices? (part 1) Reply

We make bad choices because we lack the necessary information to make a better decision.  Right?

Several articles have appeared recently indicating that a lack of information usually is not the reason why we make bad choices.

your voiceExplaining this is a recent article from NY Magazine, Science of Us, called Awareness is Overrated.  In an age with marketers and politicians raising and mandating awareness of countless issues, we might assume that simply giving people more and correct information will change behaviors (e.g., think warnings on cigarette packaging or signs asking Singapore’s commuters to move to the center of the train). But according to Prof. Victor Strecher, “There are a lot of reasons why people do what they do, but awareness of their actions’ repercussions pretty far down the list.”

Science of Us takes this a step further and points out that awareness can actually increase the instances of undesired behavior.  The Atlantic, in an article titled Why Anti-Obamacare Ads Actually Increased Obamacare Enrollment, we see an example in which states where the highest advertising dollars were spent fighting against Obamacare displayed the highest levels of Obamacare adoption.

How can this be?

In the simplest of terms, when there is no awareness then negative messaging actually raises awareness.  Looking at negative reviews of books, The Atlantic article concluded that, “by making consumers aware of a book they would otherwise not know about…even the harshest review can be a boon.”  The same appears to be true of a new social program, Obamacare.  Ads against the program made people more aware.

So while there is benefit to raising awareness if target audiences are truly unaware, investing in awareness-raising communications has a point of diminishing returns.  The real-world examples are countless.

We know that fast food is generally not healthy, but we still love our Big Macs and pizza.  We know drinking too much is un, but look at what happens in every city in the world on every ladies’ night.  We know we should exercise and not accept too much stress from work, yet we don’t exercise and wake up in early morning hours just to check email on mobile devices.

We know better, but we still do it.  Awareness is not the issue and even more awareness will not change behaviors (or even worse, may even boomerang!).

From my professional perspective, the implications are twofold.

  1. We can no longer assume that awareness is an inherent good and that people make the wrong choice because they lack enough or the proper information.
  2. We need a disciplined, data-driven approach to better decide how to spend our communication dollars and exactly on what.

So if we don’t use our communications to raise awareness, then what should we be doing?  That is what I will cover in part 2.





Companies have a tricky new way to track your movement across the web | The Verge Reply

Will Internet-based activity become the new banking?  By this I mean, will these ethical lapses add up to such a great sum that people simply lose faith in such organizations?  I doubt that I have ever visited the websites for the White House, YouPorn, or the State of California (interesting combination, if you ask me), but still I find the advances (assaults?) on the borders of privacy to be unsettling.

You can read the story at:Companies have a tricky new way to track your movement across the web | The Verge.

Researchers at Princeton have uncovered a new web-tracking method that’s nearly impossible to block. It’s called “canvas fingerprinting,” and can potentially follow users between sites even if they’ve disabled more conventional methods like cookies and aren’t logged into Facebook.”


This Week in Asia: China’s Corruption Crackdown Hits Western PR Agency Reply

This week I share how the MH17 tragedy in the Ukraine has impacted Singapore Airlines and MAS.  I also discuss how the arrest of Rui Chenggeng has impacted at least one western PR agency.

As always, do subscribe to the For Immediate Release podcast over at iTunes.

Latest Wharton Research Demonstrates the Wisdom of Crowds Reply

4-Crowdfunding-Rocio-LaraA nicely-crafted piece of research from Wharton, written by Prof. Ethan Mollick and HBS Prof. Ramana Nanda shows that crowds can make “pretty good” decisions when seeding new projects.

Crowdfunding has opened the virtual gates to capital for start-ups, developers and researchers in nearly all corners of life. But when pitted against a panel of experts in a field, can the crowd show the wisdom needed to pick a winning project?”

There research results are quite encouraging.  In this study, crowds and experts had an agreement of 57% – 62%.

And there is a communication angle.

The researchers observed that “The biggest differences we found between projects that the crowd alone supported versus those supported by experts seemed to be in the style of presentation, rather than the quality of the actual project itself,” Mollick and Nanda write. “The more ‘crowdfunding friendly’ a quality proposal was — [such as those] taking advantage of the Internet by using videos and pictures, or including many rewards for backers — the more it seemed to appeal to the crowd.”

Of course, traditional corp comm folks should take note.  This isn’t your father’s business proposal that the researchers are describing.  This is a visual literacy that is much better suited for Internet-based digital communications and an audience with changing consumption patterns.

Great research, and very much worth your time.

For Want of Water, Wealth and Happiness – Your Weekend Must Read Articles Reply

waterscarcitySome very good reads are found in this weekend’s papers.  If you have not yet had a chance to open the pages, here are three recommendations I genuinely enjoyed.

  • FT Troubled Waters.  The FT is running some insight instalments about nearing water pressures.  Where will we get enough fresh water and what are the larger consequences of changing our natural environment when people not only drink t the water, but also eat the fish and water their crops too.

    Troubled Waters discusses the Mekong River and just a few days earlier this article about A World Without Enough Water also ran.  Both are important and worth your time.

  • International NYT ran Love People, Not Pleasure.  A short but effective explanation of why happiness and unhappiness are not exactly opposite poles on the same continuum.  How, then, can we find that elusive life of happiness and not giving into our base desires?  The title, of course, points us toward an answer.
  • And four something counterintuitive to public opinion, we have Income Equality Is Not rising globally. It’s Falling.

I hope you enjoy

He Said, She Said: The Recent Drama Around MBTI Reply

intpheadQuite a kerfuffle these days around the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator.  Is it reliable?  Is it valid?  Why would a reputable professional attack this well tested instrument?

Before sharing my own thoughts, let’s first recount the debate around the MBTI.

  • Wharton Prof. Adam Grant attacks the MBTI in Say Goodbye to the MBTI, the Fad That won’t Die.  To spare you all the academic drama, let’s just say that the complaint is that the MBTI is incomplete, a few might questions might be asked about its reliability and validity, and better instruments have been created after the MBTI’s invention.
  • CPP researcher Rich Thompson replied via the CPP blog arguing that there are dozens (if not hundreds) of tests confirming the quality of the MBTI. And the end of the article he claims thousands.  Anyway, it’s a lot.  Additionally, millions of satisfied users must mean something.

Now these are simplified representations of the debate, but I have provided the links in case you want the full detail.

As a certified user of MBTI and someone extremely busy with executive development, I have independently reached the conclusion that the instrument has what I call truth value.  Talking with participants and also via coaching conversations, I see first hand that the explanations provided by MBTI resonate and users take away insights about themselves.  They can articulate why this tool helps them understand their own patterns of behavior.  Next, they are often able to start talking about why a certain course of action, at one time or another, may or may not have been useful.

Simply put, insights about self emerge, and in ways that I believe are fundamentally good.

Now do I think there are better tools out there?  Yes I do.  I am particularly keen on the Hogan instruments (which predicts reputation, something different from the MBTI).  I am also a regular user of the CPI 260.

But the MBTI has one advantage over them all–so many people have taken the test that the 4 dimensions are close to being what I would call common vocabulary.  In short, people can talk to one another about the MBTI, and that common vocabulary is useful when it comes to executive development and self insight.

Like most academic debates, Prof. Grant has his sources and resources, and being a smart guy the arguments can seem difficult to disagree with.  I certainly agree with him that better instruments have been developed.

But the criticism sounds hollow relative to my 25 years of academic experience.  Having worked with thousands of executives, I can see first hand how useful tools like the MBTI can be.

I don’t think I will be removing the MBTI from my repertoire anytime soon–experience tells me to keep it.

Mobile Ready Reply

To those who possess the patience to continue reading my blog, I wanted to share a hat tip and thank you to Scott Bales for the great mobile talk yesterday.  If you have not seen Scott’s work, here is a deck from Slideshare giving you the overview.

Definitely a great talk and worth giving your attention to.