If you’re trying to influence what someone thinks about your company, the chances are you’re failing. In fact, around 80% of companies’ communication campaigns will fall short of swaying opinions and changing minds, according to CEB data.
This is because stakeholders are suffering from intense information overload. They’re being hit by vast quantities of information from an array of channels, sources, and outlets. To cope, they’ve changed the way they consume, process, and retain information. People’s attention spans are shorter than ever before, giving communicators a tiny window of opportunity to influence target audiences.
The Conventional Approach, and Why it Doesn’t Work
Most teams have adopted a “distribution strategy” to improve how they distribute content. Many teams in CEB’s network of communications professionals have been trying to find more ways to connect with audiences, more often, by adding a wide variety of search-optimized channels to their repertoire: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube, and so on.
But all this effort doesn’t tend to produce the results communicators want because, even if they do get a message through the right channel and at the right time, at the other end is a skeptical, apathetic, and time-pressed employee with a short attention span.
A Better Way Forward
So, to influence stakeholders, it’s vital to improve the quality of the content. CEB research shows that, to influence stakeholders (or any human being, for that matter), content must have all three of the following characteristics (which, sadly, 80% of corporate content doesn’t have). To influence stakeholders, corporate content should:
Challenge their pre-existing beliefs and assumptions: It’s not enough to simply introduce new information, and hope that people change their minds.
Content must be disruptive. It must challenge the assumptions, beliefs and schema that underpin a stakeholder’s viewpoint. Only by truly challenging the underpinnings of a stakeholder’s belief can you change their mind on an issue.
Be immediately, personally relevant to the target audience: Being generically relevant isn’t enough to influence stakeholders.
Content must resonate with a stakeholder, and appeal to a value they hold, an outcome they care about, or an image they’re trying to project to their peers.
Reduce the mental effort a stakeholder has to exert to an absolute minimum: Yes, content has to be simple and easy to read, but you need to look further than that. Are there too many words in a paragraph? Are there unnecessary lines on a bar chart? Or too many hyperlinks, all of which distract from the text itself?