Show 19 – World PR Forum Pt.3: Behavioural Change & African Comms

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The third in the series of specials for the World Public Relations Forum, that took place in Toronto in May 2016.

Russell Goldsmith was joined on the line from Vancouver, Canada, by Christie Smith, Founder of the Elite Communicators Group, who spoke about about Behavioural Change, plus from Johannesburg, South Africa, by Daniel Munslow, Principal Consultant at VMA Group.  With him in the studios of markettiers was Janet Morgan, former Director for Global Content Strategy and Planning at GlaxoSmithKline.

The two main topics covered were Behavioural Change and Communications Trends in South Africa.

At the start of the show, Christie talked about the Green Bin Programme that she was involved in with Edelman and Russell Strategies when she was employed with the City of Vancouver.  The aim of the campaign was to recycle food scraps, reduce garbage and cut down on pollution, but had the added challenge of delivering this message to a number of different target ethnic backgrounds within the city.

Christie explained that Vancouver is very culturally diverse, with close to half the population having an Asian heritage.  In fact, 70% of recent immigrants to the city are Chinese.  The campaign communications therefore had to take into account specific value systems and ways of life and so they had to tailor their messages to connect with the different cultural groups.  For example, from their pilot campaign and research, they found that Asian residents explained that the message ‘you will create a legacy for future generations if you recycle your food scraps’ encouraged them to do so more than a message about recycling food scraps is good for the environment.  They also found that a letter from the Mayor, coming from a position of power, also resonated more with them.

As it turned out, the Green Bin Programme delivered excellent results in Behavioural Change and Christie said that residents continue to recycle food scraps meaning the campaign had a lasting sustainable impact.

Janet added to this discussion topic with information about what the Behavioural Insights Team do for the UK Government.  She gave an example of how they are trying to reduce the number of people who miss their hospital appointments by using the EAST method – Easy, Attractive, Social and Timely.  This is achieved by simple changes to the content within the txt messages sent to the patients about how to cancel, like actually including the number to call in the message, rather than referring them to their appointment letter – that’s the easy bit!  The key was for them to add a note in the message about how much money it costs the NHS if you miss your appointment, which Janet explained is the ‘Social’ element of the EAST tactic.  Adding that latter note helped cut the number of people who missed their appointments by 13%.

In the second part of the show, Daniel talked through the key findings of the research his company had just carried out together with the Public Relations Institute of Southern Africa and the Africa region of the International Association of Business Communicators. This looked into the key trends shaping business communications in South Africa and more broadly on the African continent.

Daniel talked through the top five challenges that were highlighted in the research findings, but said they have to been taken into consideration with the broader macro-economic and socio-political context that South Africa is facing, including GDP growth of 0.8% compared to a forecast of 5%.  Those challenges were, in order:

  1. Downward Pressure on Budget
  2. Number and complexity of key audiences
  3. Leadership ability
  4. Skills shortage
  5. Silos within organisations

One of the aspects of the research we picked up on though, was the need to have cross cultural skills, particularly in a county with so diversity as South Africa where, just as an example, there are eleven languages spoken.

Please visit the VMA site for more information on their report.

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