Message received, understood, and action taken!

Day in and day out we’re all required to communicate to try to encourage those around us to take action based on what we’ve asked them to do.  We’re required to drive changes in perspective and behaviour whether it’s in how residents set out materials at the curb, or in how a contractor collects or processes recyclables.

Fortunately, there is a wealth of research that’s been done on this subject.  In their 2008 book:  Made to Stick, authors, Chip & Dan Heath, write about ‘SUCCESs’ principles for communicating ideas that are understandable and memorable including two tips that follow, to help motivate and mobilize our audiences:

  • Make it Emotional: Find the feeling so that people care about your message or idea. Feelings can be more powerful motivators than facts.  Appeal to people’s aspirations and the things they care about.
  • Use Stories:  Stories can be captivating and people have a natural affinity to pay attention to and follow a story.  Use a story to demonstrate or simulate the response you’re seeking. Clearly outline the actions you’d like to see.

In their 2010 book, Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, these authors offer additional helpful insights into behavior change.  For example, they suggest that what looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity.  Sometimes, people don’t change because they resist it; it’s because they’re unsure of how to do it.  This underscores the importance of the communication principle to keep messaging simple and the call to action crystal clear. Messages such as ‘recycle more’ are easily lost on residents who don’t know what is and is not recyclable. In a busy world, where people are bombarded with messaging at every turn, it’s easy to disregard calls to action that are vague and require too much work to decipher.

As we all begin to contemplate and plan for the changes that will take hold under the new Waste Free Ontario Act, understanding some of the basics about how information is received and interpreted and how change can be guided will help minimize confusion and foster better decision-making.

Obtaining budget approvals for new initiatives can be hard to secure if it’s not clear who will benefit and how, or what will be lost by not taking action. Being able to communicate your vision effectively can be the key to bringing new programs to life.

On May 17, the CIF staff along with Course Facilitator Betty Muise will deliver a free training course for municipal staff that explores some of these effective communication concepts in greater detail. Participants will have the opportunity to strengthen their understanding and their ability to apply ideas from leading thinkers about successful behavior change and how these approaches can benefit all aspects of Blue Box program planning and delivery. If you’re not enrolled yet, but you’re interested in learning more, add your name to the waiting list. If there is sufficient interest, the CIF will attempt to make a second offering of the course available.

Contact Jessica Landry for more information.