February 18, 2014
Influencing with Integrity: Intention vs. Impact
This evening’s engaging presentation was given by Stephen McGarvey, the founder and managing partner of Solutions in Mind and a world-leading authority on unconscious communication, persuasion, and influence. He has assisted corporations and audiences around the world in solving difficult communications problems.
Stephen began by saying that physicians spend their practicing lives reading data and trying to understand clinical trials and statistical analyses, but before they became physicians they were human beings. Therefore, when they make decisions, they’re driven by emotional drivers and not rational drivers. He pointed out that, as marketers, we don’t spend enough time trying to uncover and understand their emotional drivers.
He asked the audience how many times they had presented information or data in the way in which they perceived it and then realized that’s not how it was interpreted. Many of the attendees agreed that this had happened to them. Stephen pointed out that what we intend to communicate is very different than what we deliver.
Stephen then quoted Plato, “Those who tell stories rule the world”. He said we need to understand what’s relevant for the audience before we can communicate and influence with integrity. He said that our intention in delivering a message is often different from our impact. Stories are hard-wired into our DNA and capture our imagination and hold our attention. He continued by explaining that stories evoke emotions which drive behaviour and they can alter our world view.
He went on to present the example of the St. Lucia parrot, which became the theme for his talk. This bird was on the verge of extinction in 1977, as the inhabitants of St. Lucia viewed this bird as a source of food, a trade commodity and as a pest to St. Lucia’s farmland. However, an Englishman named Paul Butler, took it upon himself to save this bird from extinction, but it took him a few attempts to convince the St. Lucians why they should do so. Paul quickly realized that they were not going to be swayed by the hard facts about the bird, because they had no emotional connection or attachment to the bird. So, Paul applied a hierarchy of change model to his situation which made him examine the environment, behaviour, capabilities, beliefs, values and identity of his audience. And, by analyzing these elements, and changing his story to meet them, he was able to change the emotional mindset of the St. Lucians about their parrot.
But what does that mean to us? It means that we need to tap into our audience’s identity and their beliefs and values so that we’re in a better position to influence them. Stephen acknowledged that marketers all have representatives out in the field who have marketing tools in their bags but they often don’t pull them out when they’re with their customers. So the question is, “How do we get them to use them?” Stephen’s answer was that we have to make sure that the story in the materials we produce is in alignment with what’s actually happening in the field. He validated this by saying that data shows us one thing, but it’s not reflected in reality/prescribing data. He said that our decisions are driven by emotion (mostly unconsciously) and justified by logic, and not the other way around.
He then addressed the notion of “objection handling” and said that the more you handle the objection in the context of your brand, the more you grow roots under the problem, which is the opposite of what you want. He suggested that the paradox of asking “Why don’t you?” should be replaced by “Why do you?” or “Why do you like that?” By following such lines of thinking, he pointed out that you’re asking questions that get the “story line” going in the right direction.
Stephen presented a decision-making model which has three questions attached to it: 1) Who am I/what’s my identity? 2) What’s the situation I find myself in? 3) What would someone like me do in this kind of situation? He then used this model to relate the story back to the St. Lucia parrot, showing how Paul Butler successfully emotionally engaged St. Lucians into wanting to protect and value the bird. He said that you need to be able to communicate in the context of what’s relevant to an individual and figure out how to make data compelling to them. Stories are a good way to this because they are the filter through which facts are given meaning. Stephen gave the example of a physician who, after having been presented with hard data, says, “That’s nice, but that’s not my experience. The physician is filtering the facts through the context of their own experience. He quoted the following from “The Story Factors” by Annette Simmons: “A good story helps you influence the interpretation of people give to facts. Facts aren’t influential until they mean something to someone. Providing facts without a story leaves too much to chance.”
He concluded his talk by presenting “The Pixar Code”, which represents the underlying narrative structure of all the stories in Pixar movies and is represented by the following:
Once upon a time ___________________________________.
Every day, ______________________________.
One day __________________________.
Because of that, ________________________________________.
Because of that, ___________________________________.
Until finally ___________________________.
He said that this structure can be applied to any type of business, simply by changing “once upon a time” to “when we first evaluated this” or “when we first compared our product to X, Y and Z” or “when we first considered moving in this direction”. Any data can be plugged into this “formula” and be made to tell a story. He encouraged the audience to try using this formula to make their products tell a story and bring facts to life. By doing so, it can help take people through a journey when hearing about a product, rather than just dumping information on them.
He brought his example of the St. Lucia parrot full circle by telling the audience that a few years after Paul Butler made it his mission to save it from extinction, the bird population had grown 10-fold, its image was incorporated into the St. Lucian coat of arms and it was featured on a stamp. Like the story of the St. Lucia parrot, by moving the story in the right direction, successful outcomes can be attained.