When you’ve got something important to say, getting others to listen and do something about it can be a daunting task. Whether you’re an executive with an important initiative or a marketer trying to attract the attention of potential customers living in a message-dense environment, the ability to consistently get a listening ear - and generate action - can be a crucial skill.
Australian researchers Barry Marshall and Robin Warren discovered that stomach ulcers are usually caused by bacterial infections, not stress or spicy foods as commonly thought. Most doctors refused to believe them. Ulcer patients had to endure ten long years of constant pain before physicians finally accepted the facts and prescribed the antibiotics that brought them relief.
When and how we pay attention
Clearly effective communicators need more than just an important message that deserves consideration. Peer-reviewed scientific research has uncovered a number of proven factors than can encourage others to pay attention, evaluate, and act on persuasive messages. That research shows that there are two factors involved in how we decide of which messages to take note and which to ignore:
• Personal relevance
• Our ability to pay attention
Clearly if someone tells us something that we recognize as vital, we will carefully consider what they have to say. That is – if we have the time and ability to focus on it. If we feel swamped, burdened or tired we are less able to pay attention. And when we’re not truly motivated or able to pay attention we will often use decision shortcuts called heuristics. The term “heuristic” is familiar to many I.T. professionals, indicating a quick way of evaluating a computer file. Heuristic decision shortcuts allow us to quickly decide what merits our attention.
Message Availability can make or break communication effectiveness
Research reveals that one shortcut that greatly impacts whether or not people act on what you tell them is message availability. This one factor can render ineffective the most persuasive message. University of Minnesota researchers Snyder and Swann found that people’s actions matched their beliefs only when those thoughts quickly came to mind. Executives may convince their department members that a particular procedure is right. But those department members will only implement that procedure if they remember it when the time comes.
Marketers have long been told that it takes anywhere from 6 to 10 “touches” to get prospects to respond to advertising. Persuasive communication campaigns may convince them that your product is the best. But they’ll actively consider or buy it only if they can quickly recall its advantages when it’s time to make a purchase. So, vivid messaging and creative repetition are critical. Repeating the key thought in different ways can keep your message current and the recipients from nodding off. But repeat it you must if you want to have any chance of your audience taking action.
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