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Unscrambling the brain: the science behind communication

Posted by Anna Ouseley-Giraldo on 13th March 2019

Strong communication is a key part of every PR campaign. Suzanne Ellis, director at reputation management consultancy Lansons was a speaker at last month’s PROI seminar and said, “At a time when we are constantly bombarded with information, it is more important than ever that communications cuts through the noise.”

Honest and powerful communication connects directly with an audience, but how best can we deliver this communication to provide the best experience for our customers?

The answer — neurocomms.

The science behind communication

Neurocomms is the application of neuroscience in communications, a concept founded by Dr Helena Boschi, a psychologist who focuses on applied neuroscience in the workplace and author of Why We Do What We Do, an introduction to neuroscience and the first book published by Lansons. Explaining how our brains resist change because change represents uncertainty, she says, “Although many of today’s threats are no longer life-or-death situations, our brain still protects us as if they were just that.”

Ellis, who contributed to Why We Do What We Do, further comments in Communicate Magazine on the importance of neurocomms and how understanding the way we communicate can add value to businesses and their campaigns. “Understanding how the brain works provides communicators with a powerful tool to engage audiences and change behaviours. With ongoing economic and political forces shaping our lives we all have to learn to cope with the unpredictable and unplanned. Learning how the brain works is the first step towards understanding how to get the best out of ourselves in the modern world.”

By understanding our neuro processes in the context of business campaigns, we gain unlimited access to the secrets of persuasive communications.

The comprehensive guide to human behaviour

Dr Robert Cialdini, social psychologist and author of acclaimed New York Times bestseller Influence and Pre-Suasion describes the science of persuasion and examines the techniques that help decode our brain and the way we respond to communication. He argues that the secret doesn’t lie in the message itself, but rather in the key moment before that message is delivered.

In Matthew Loop’s book Social Media Made Me Rich Cialdini says: “When making a decision, it would be nice to think that people consider all the available information to guide their thinking. But the reality is very often different. In the increasingly overloaded lives we lead, more than ever we need shortcuts or rules of thumb to guide our decision-making.”

Cialdini has condensed the principals of persuasion into six of universal shortcuts that guide human behaviour. They are:

  • Reciprocity: People are obliged to give back to others the form of a behaviour, gift or service that they have received first
  • Scarcity: People want more of those things they have less of
  • Authority: People follow the lead of credible, knowledgeable experts
  • Consistency: People like to be consistent with the things they have previously said or done. When seeking to influence using the consistency principle, the detective of influence looks for voluntary, active, and public commitments
  • Liking: People prefer to say yes to those that they like
  • Consensus: People will look to the actions and behaviours of others to determine their own, especially when they are uncertain

Cut through the noise

By understanding these basic six principles in the application of neuroscience in communications, you can design your campaigns to be three-dimensional, persuasive and stimulating enough for people to stay engaged and through doing so, become the eye at the centre of a consumer storm.

Anna Ouseley-Giraldo

Anna’s honed pitching style and extensive media relations experience is a must-have for client campaigns, as she drives coverage results through her enviable contact book Outside of work, Anna has a flair for amateur dramatics and actively pursues her interest in fashion and the arts. In fact, she’s almost as adept at the piano as Beethoven himself (so she tells us).