mobileheaderpsyche

PSYCHE UP YOUR

PR TEAM

Public relations isn’t just about writing clever messaging, throwing it out there and hoping for the best; it’s about using psychology to achieve a pre-determined objective … to first understand how people think in order to craft strategic communication that will influence their behaviour. This means that public relations and psychology are inextricably intertwined. But how do we apply psychology skilfully to create successful campaigns? 

According to Statista, during the second quarter of 2020, total consumer spending in South Africa amounted to R1.66 trillion. By the second quarter of 2021, the country’s spending had grown to a quarterly total of around 2.95 trillion. That’s 1.29 trillion reasons to find out how consumers tick.

PSYCHE UP YOUR

PR TEAM

Public relations isn’t just about writing clever messaging, throwing it out there and hoping for the best; it’s about using psychology to achieve a pre-determined objective … to first understand how people think in order to craft strategic communication that will influence their behaviour. This means that public relations and psychology are inextricably intertwined. But how do we apply psychology skilfully to create successful campaigns? 

According to Statista, during the second quarter of 2020, total consumer spending in South Africa amounted to R1.66 trillion. By the second quarter of 2021, the country’s spending had grown to a quarterly total of around 2.95 trillion. That’s 1.29 trillion reasons to find out how consumers tick.

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Consumer spending in South Africa

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To understand how to truly connect with and influence consumers, PR professionals need to assess who the audience is, how they form their opinions, how receptive they are to messaging, and how well they retain this messaging. They need to observe their audiences, tailor their message accordingly, and watch the subconscious behaviour unfold. But how do we achieve this?

consumers

Meeting needs and Satisfying desires

Very often, demographics are used to inform messaging, but if we want to really reach and influence people, we must figure out their needs and desires, as these motivate behaviour. Communications practitioners must aim to put out information that is based on the in-depth knowledge of consumers’ needs and desires – this will achieve the objective of creating messaging that leads to action.

needsdesires

How do we establish an emotional connection with the consumer?

In the psychology of buying, this is called The Epiphany Bridge, where a consumer has an emotional reaction to what we’re telling them. It leads them to move forward, and after crossing that bridge, they’ll then use logic to justify their purchase.

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Did you know?

According to Bizcommunity, the three most popular online shopping categories for South African consumers in 2020 were clothing and apparel (53%), entertainment and education (digital/downloadable) (51%), and event tickets (51%). To run effective campaigns, we must learn more about who is buying these items and why.

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What makes people buy?

International marketing coach, trainer, consultant and entrepreneur, David Sargant, says we buy for the following reasons:

We Want: To Avoid: We think our purchases will:
better health
taking risks
keep us up to date
more self-confidence
losing money
make us likeable or influential
an improved appearance
leaving ourselves vulnerable to threats
help us to better express ourselves
more leisure or comfort
potential suffering
a better life
embarrassment
more time
worry

By working out where products or services fit within customers’ psychological and emotional needs, we can tailor our PR approach and tactics. We can identify how these products help them overcome a problem or achieve what they want.

What persuades people?

Professor, psychologist, author and speaker, Robert Cialdini, says there are six principles of persuasion. In a book called What’s the Future of Business, author Brian Solis uses Cialdini’s principles to show how they influence consumer’s buying decisions, as follows:

1. Reciprocity:

Over 25 million pieces of content are shared on Facebook every month. People have an innate desire to repay favours to maintain social fairness.

2. Scarcity:

77% of people like getting exclusive offers. We assign greater value to products that are less available due to fear of potential loss.

3. Authority:

77% of online shoppers use reviews to make purchase decisions. People also place the most trust in credible and knowledgeable experts

4. Commitment and Consistency:

62% of online shoppers are loyal to a brand due to online satisfaction. When we are uncertain, we reach out to something we already know and trust.

5. Liking:

50% of shoppers have made a purchase based on the recommendation of the people they follow and like on social networks.

6. Consensus (social proof):

81% of customers reach out to family and friends on social networking sites for advice before purchasing products.

How to change their minds

Once we’ve figured out people’s attitudes and opinions, can we change them? Yes, two effective ways are to use classical conditioning and the social learning theory.

Classical conditioning is learning through association. For example, a person who has been associated with nice perfume is now seen as attractive. In terms of public relations, associating products or services with something positive can change people’s perceptions.

The social learning theory proposes that people learn from one another via observation, imitation and modelling. In a PR strategy, social learning is often achieved by using celebrities or influencers to affect people’s behaviour. 

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Make it memorable

Once we’ve determined the target audience and understand their attitudes and perceptions, how do we hold their attention? The most prominent ways are to:

Stimulate curiosity and provoke questions 

Introduce a surprise or change by switching things up with a picture or joke 

Stress the relevance of the topic to connect listeners

Tell stories

Now that we have their attention, how do we get them to retain the information shared? There are three major processes involved in memory: 

Encoding

Storage

Retrieval

It is proven that storytelling is more effective in getting people to remember than memorising repeated facts. This is why PR professionals use storytelling elements in a press release — to help the reader remember.

In conclusion, a good PR plan must be skilfully guided by theories of psychology. When studied, analysed and used correctly, it can propel a PR plan to become an engrained societal belief. More importantly, it can achieve what we as PR professionals aim to achieve … strategically promoting our clients’ products and services, and giving consumers what they need and desire.

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