What does behavior change have to do with True Blood?

In HBO’s True Blood you gotta bring the whole bag of tricks to protect yourself from vampires, werewolves, maenads, warlocks, faeries and who knows what else is comin’. According to social marketing expert Mike Newton-Ward, if you showed up in Bon Temps with only garlic or only a wooden stake, you’d be in a whole lotta trouble.

For many issues in life, you need more than one strategy to deal. Think about rationalizing with children – different personalities and ages may need different approaches. Strong negotiators have many tactics up their sleeves, ready to pull out as needed. Consumer products companies have endless marketing and sales strategies to get us to buy. Even justifying a new shoe purchase – many women know a variety of ways to do this. So why would we think it’s enough to apply one solution, one strategy, or one event to complex, vexing social issues and public health problems, and expect much change? Or, to apply the solution or strategy or communication only one time?

These problems haven’t gone away yet for a reason. For a good discussion about this, check out Mike’s social marketing blog and his post “Stop Looking for a Silver Bullet! We need Wooden Stakes and Garlic, too!” for a reminder of how the 4 P’s of marketing applied to social issues allows you to more effectively attack a problem from numerous angles. 

I also appreciate how he shares this quote: “Problems worthy of attack, prove their worth by hitting back.” It’s not bad if your prevention and behavior change efforts get push-back. Especially if you get major push-back from industry. Instead look at it this way — it means you are on the right track. It’s a sign of your effectiveness, and that’s a good thing.

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Laughing Out Loud at LOL Story

“I’m sorry your dog died. LOL.”

An interior design blogger shared this story of how she thought LOL meant “Lots of Love” but wound up unknowingly using LOL most inappropriately! And not just this one time, many times until she found out what it meant.

Public health is full of stories of ineffective and even harmful campaigns because not enough was known about the audience and its communication. The lady who unwittingly confused her dear friends could have asked her social media-savvy kids what LOL meant. Unfortunately sometimes we don’t even know what we don’t know in order to ask. Here’s a way to steer clear of no-laughing-matter situations — always do your formative research (or, market research as some professions call it). This will give you a deep understanding of your audience’s motivations, behaviors, needs, change triggers, etc. and make your communications more effective at the change you seek. And most certainly, it will help you avoid unintended mishaps that are no laughing matter.


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You Can’t Ignore Zombies

So, public health friends, if you want more attention for your issue, link it to zombies somehow. When the CDC used zombies as a hook for an issue, the world beat a path to the CDC blog so much that the CDC’s web site crashed. Yeah. Check it out. If you can get on the CDC site. I couldn’t.

Sounds like a fun, innovative way to get attention. Maybe we don’t always have to communicate so rationally?

Last night over dinner with a visitor, the book The Social Animal which I wrote about previously came up in conversation. Not by me. By a very rational, statistics-driven MBA. And his description of what he learned from the book was very similar to the messages in Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, another book I’ve been reading and have intended to blog about my public health and traffic safety view of its advice. Great reminder to get back on that, because apparently, “what makes people tick” can be very interesting dinner talk. Zombies, too.

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The Social Animal

Heard while driving home yesterday: NPR interview about the  new book The Social Animal which offers an interesting angle on human behavior that differs from policymaker assumptions. Perhaps leading to many of the major policy failures this world has seen lately. The author believes these policy failures are due to an overly simplistic view of human nature by the policymakers.

Key points from the NPR story:

  • Perhaps other people besides policymakers — such as scientists, philosophers, psychologists and neuroscientists — were the ones who had real insight on how people thrive.
  • In Washington, D.C. … decisions are made based on the assumption that people are cold, rationalistic individuals who respond to incentives.
  • But emotion is more important than reason … most of our thinking happens below the level of awareness.
  • In situations like the one in Egypt, signals transferred from person to person affected the mood and emotions of the entire country. (My note: contrast with, how would an economist describe the situation and human behavior?)

Funny point:

  • The author David Brooks says, “”The reality of education is that people learn from people they love. But if you mention the word love at a congressional hearing, they look at you like you’re Oprah.”

I have not read the book yet. Just reporting. As I live with an economist, I’m aware there certainly are different viewpoints about why people do what they do, perhaps due to how our professional trainings shape how we see the world.


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Social Norms via Social Media

Here’s quick share of a blog post about spreading social change via social media.

Today’s 2-hour distracted driving event with US Dept of Transportation and Consumer Reports was streamed live online, along with a Twitter conversation with #DD hashtag.

The social media blog post was shared during this conversation – it’s a reminder that you can spread messages online, and perhaps influence those who value the beliefs of their online communities. Online is another “community” where social norms are taking shape. (But despite the growth of social media, we should remember not everyone is involved in it or open to being influenced by it.)

Several influential social media moms with large followings were tweeting during the distracted driving event, and that surely will stimulate Facebook shares, blog posts and traditional media like interviews for magazine and newspaper articles.

Parents are a critical audience for safer teen driving, and numerous parents follow and “talk” with the influential online movers and shakers – how can we engage these influential parents (moms and dads) who’ve built large online followings?


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