Watching the TV while in the gym this morning a story came up revealing that Cumbria was identified as the area with most obesity in the UK at present. The story in itself was of general interest, but what I was watching was how the experts being interviewed communicated.
One of the things that is always mentioned in relation to communication is the importance of being able to get your message across in way that gets the attention of the audience.
The expert from Public Health spoke about the impact of poor diet. He spoke about the increased risk of heart problems, cancer and diabetes. Now these are all valid in terms of the impact of not taking the topic seriously.
Trouble is that what was said has probably been rolled out hundreds of times. It might make a few people, stop, take stock and in some cases change their habits.
On the other hand will it really stick? Will it create change on a major scale? In reality it’s unlikely to result in any meaningful change.
So why do I say this? Well if you think about it a lot of people can’t relate to heart problems, cancer and diabetes. They might well even tell you about people who had very healthy lifestyles who still ended up with one or more of these conditions. Of course if they have had a family member who they lost to one of these conditions then things will be a little different.
So what might create a reaction and change habits? Making it very personal could be one strategy. For example even if someone can’t relate to the conditions, they can totally understand if someone states that they might miss out on the their kids growing up, seeing their daughter marry or celebrating 40 years together with a partner.
Another strategy might be talk about people who really suffered for a long period of time, whose quality of life was really poor and missed out on things.
You could use visuals to get the message across.
While talking in this article about a specific event, there are some common messages that would be relevant to anyone who is leading, managing or seeking to influence:
The first thing is you need to step into the shoes of the recipient of the communication. What is it that’s going to get their attention? What is it that they can relate to?
Secondly you have to address the objections that they might have because they might rightly or wrongly think there is a hidden agenda.
Thirdly just communication in words, facts and figures is not going to be enough. You have to make it real and be creative in how you do it.
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