If negative messages attract more attention than positive ones, how can we and our organizations compete with a steady stream of sensational negative news headlines to communicate constructively with our audiences?
Hope and heroes.
This is an approach that leverages the negativity bias to engage people with positivity. Here’s how it works.
The “negativity bias” refers to our tendency to focus attention on negative information more than positive information – likely because humans have survived and evolved because of our ability to quickly identify and address threats. This reaction is hard-wired in our brains.
To a certain extent, this explains why news headlines and social media are flooded with negative stories. They grab our attention.
To transcend this attention-hoarding influence and capture audience interest, here’s a simple way to use the communication power of hope and heroes.
Try this the next time you’re prepping a news release, presentation, article or other type of content focused on engaging, educating, entertaining, inspiring or persuading.
Picture the hero
The bestselling book Building a StoryBrand describes how to use the elements of captivating stories to connect with customers. While this is a marketing book targeted to business owners who want to build their brands, the concepts apply equally to many forms of communication between a wide range of organizations and their audiences.
Picturing the hero refers to visualizing your target audience as the hero of the story you intend to share.
Example – like I’m doing now. You are the hero of this post.
Work in the negativity bias
Now, leverage the negativity bias. Every hero has a challenge they’re struggling with. Describe the problem they’re experiencing related to how you can help. How is this challenge impacting them? What would be their improved circumstances if they didn’t have this problem?
Example – see the first sentence of this post. My hero is struggling with how to compete with distracting negative news to win audience attention.
Everyone wants hope – a path or plan they can use to solve their problems.
So lay that out. “Take these steps…” “Implement this strategy…” “Consider this …”
Example – see above: “Try this…”
Wield the negativity bias again
Show your audience the downside of not taking the suggested path or not executing the recommendations. This helps to reinforce why they won’t want to fail.
Example – see below: “Don’t allow…”
Link hope with success
Wrap up your communication by showing your hero how hope can end in success. Paint a picture of how their life will be better if they follow your guidance.
Example – see the last sentence below.
Don’t allow sensational headlines of murder and mayhem to bury your important messages. When you’re next preparing informative content, frame your message using these four tactics.
Hopefully, you’re now feeling optimistic about engaging your important audiences with your important communications!