OkCupid Maybe Isn’t So OK? Reply

Spoke tonight on Channel News Asia about OKCupid‘s decision to follow Facebook’s footsteps and report experiments with its users.  NYT ran an article, Looking for Love on the Web, As It Experiments with You.

Personally, while I am sure the company wants some insights to make their site better I personally suspect a PR move to gain earned media.  That doesn’t make the experiment right, but certainly OK Cupid is getting a lot of free coverage.

I bet OK Cupid will be measuring the growth of new accounts in the wake of these stories.

OK Cupid CNA spot

OK Cupid CNA spot 2


‘Hello there’: eight lessons from Microsoft’s awful job loss memo – FT.com Reply

Barely 10 days old, Stephen Elop’s “Hello there” memo has already become a classic example of how not to fire people. It is a 1,110-word document stiff with “appropriate financial envelopes”, “ramp-downs” and “ecosystems” which, towards the end, casually mentions that thousands of Microsoft jobs are to go. Rather than dish out the bad news directly, the executive vice-president takes refuge behind a curious subjunctive: “We plan that this would result in an estimated reduction of 12,500 . . . employees.”

Yet to focus on Mr Elop’s tin ear misses something. This memo deserves to become a set text for all executives interested in communication. It adds value by showcasing the delivery of business piffle that is perfectly aligned with current high-end management guff. It is a case study in how not to write, how not to think, and how not to lead a business.

via ‘Hello there’: eight lessons from Microsoft’s awful job loss memo – FT.com.

Communicators Beware: Why Do People Make Bad Choices (part 2)? Reply

Creating awareness is sometimes overrated.

That was the point of part 1 of this series posted earlier this week.  When there is little or no awareness, efforts aimed at raising that awareness in a target audience can be helpful.  But a point of diminishing returns quickly emerges and, beyond that point, further awareness-raising efforts either produce little to no change in people’s behaviors or worse can actually increase instances of the undesired behavior.

changeWhat are communicators to do if they cannot simply rely on their favorite hashtag or easy, preachy messages?

Now that is a much harder question.  Digging into the research we see several models that explain a process.  An example would be Kurt Lewin’s theory of change that goes like this.


A good start, but still it does not explain what is the source of the change.  This is a useful but purely chronological process.

The Science of Us article, Awareness is Overrated, moves us closer by pointing to identity as a source of change.  The process is called motivational interviewing.  By using an OARS questioning technique (open-ended questions, affirmation, reflective listening and summaries), we can discover what roles are important to an individual.  Be it father, manager, husband, or neighbor, we all have roles that are central to our identity and a source of motivation to achieve and change.

Motivational coaching helps people find motivation in their identity and then use this to promote change.  In other words, how we see ourselves in interpersonal relationships that are important to us then serves as a potential source of motivation.

Another key source of change can be social norms.  What we think is the norm can be a powerful source of boundary setting and helping people decide what is appropriate or not.   Through the use of trusted or credible community leaders, some change efforts have succeeded at resetting community norms to change behaviors such as bullying in school.

The described approach is in theory very similar to tipping point leadership where kingpins with outsized influenced are used to lead new initiatives.  By drawing on their network and status as accepted leaders, these kingpins become the agents through which change is rolled out in an organization.  Credibility and status are used as a means of influence.

Finally, some work around Theory of Change suggests to me that one of the key methods for bringing about change is to use system 2 thinking (the brain’s analytical mode) to help people plot a thoughtful and well-designed path forward with a change initiative.  In my mind, this implies that to some degree change does not happen because there does not appear a clear and effective path forward.

Upon some reflection, we can see that efforts to bring about change must “attack the roots of people’s behaviors in sophisticated ways.”  If that is the case, then why do we still display an over-reliance on raising awareness?

In terms of mental investment, people usually look for ways to make a minimum investment.  “Awareness-raising….is easier and more straightforward [than deeper methods just described], and this can help explain why it’s so prevalent despite the dearth of empirical evidence it works.”  This is what the NY Magazine article called cognitive miserliness.

There is nothing wrong with raising awareness.  And in a social media age, the ease of counting hashtag responses and retweets can make awareness raising perhaps appear more important than it really is.  Certainly it feels good to be seen as on the right side of an issue.

But if having a real impact is important, then perhaps we might begin rethinking our approach to communications.  A more sophisticated of why people continue to make bad choices could lead us down a productive path.


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.