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Not Just the Facts Ma’am: Getting Your Message to Matter

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Not Just the Facts Ma’am: Getting Your Message to Matter

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Gigantic Idea Studio's presentation: Not Just the Facts Ma'am: Getting your Message to Matter. Presented Aug. 6, 2015 at the California Resource Recovery Association Conference in Los Angeles.

Gigantic Idea Studio's presentation: Not Just the Facts Ma'am: Getting your Message to Matter. Presented Aug. 6, 2015 at the California Resource Recovery Association Conference in Los Angeles.


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Not Just the Facts Ma’am: Getting Your Message to Matter

  1. 1. Not Just the Facts Ma’am: Getting Your Message to Matter Content provided for educational, non-commercial purposes.
  2. 2. Why can’t we present just THE FACTS?!
  3. 3. Because we have shorter attention spans than
  4. 4. “Vivid” Communication gets attention and aids recall.
  5. 5. Without ATTENTION, there is no RECALL…
  6. 6. Without recall, there is no ACTION.
  7. 7. How many blue squares did you see? How many orange circles?
  8. 8. It’s good to stand out in the crowd.
  9. 9. Conclusion slide Appeal to Emotion Tell a Story Use Vivid Imagery
  10. 10. Strategy 1: Connect to Emotion
  11. 11. A Which got the most B
  12. 12. B
  13. 13. Emotion gets attention.
  14. 14. What is emotion?
  15. 15. Acting Knowing Feeling Emotional appeals support knowledge & action
  16. 16. Pitch in, America!
  17. 17. Make it safe to join inOakland Recycles!
  18. 18. Seeing someone “just like me” feels inclusive
  19. 19. Place-based humor Source: SF Environment
  20. 20. Connecting with humor Connecting with humor
  21. 21. Humor aids recallHumor aids recall
  22. 22. Feeling good about choices
  23. 23. Encouragement works
  24. 24. Thank you’s boost feelings of social worth…
  25. 25. …and increase receptivity to do more
  26. 26. Emotion makes your outreach go further.
  27. 27. Strategy 2: Storytelling
  28. 28. A hero’s journey
  29. 29. What is storytelling?
  30. 30. Why does it work? StoryFacts
  31. 31. Facts vs. Stories Facts Story
  32. 32. Real life stories
  33. 33. Storytelling for Businesses Source:
  34. 34. Stories address barriers
  35. 35. Strategy 3: Vividly Present Facts and
  36. 36. What is vivid Source: Clean Air Campaign, Georgia
  37. 37. Vivid Words: Naked Attic
  38. 38. Make invisible visible July 2011 August 2014 Source:
  39. 39. Illustrate the data Source: Chasing Ice documentary (
  40. 40. Relate to what you know Source: Chasing Ice documentary (
  41. 41. Infographics illustrate data Source:
  42. 42. Games teach quickly
  43. 43. Games spark memory
  44. 44. Conclusion slide Appeal to Emotion Tell a Story Use Vivid Imagery
  45. 45. How do you choose?
  46. 46. Define Objectives Research Strategy Create Campaign Testing Adjustments Rollout Evaluation Creative development is part of a strategic
  47. 47. Know your community. Research helps.
  48. 48. Use Emotion Key Awareness Strategy: Get Attention Embed in Stories Enhance brochures, newsletters
  49. 49. Tell a Story Persuasion: Overcome Barriers Newsletters, Video, Presentations Letters, Direct mail
  50. 50. Vividly Present Facts Persuasion & Confirmation: Overcome barriers, Provide feedback Newsletters, Presentations, Brochures, Social Media Technical Assistance, In Person Outreach, Audits
  51. 51. Afraid of emotion? You’re not
  52. 52. Conclusion slide Appeal to Emotion Tell a Story Use Vivid Imagery
  53. 53. Conclusion slide Contact us:

Editor's Notes

  • LISA: Good afternoon. Welcome to Gigantic Idea Studio’s presentation “Not Just the Facts Ma’am: Getting Your Message to Matter.” It’s great to be here. My name is Lisa Duba and I’m the owner and creative director at Gigantic.

  • Lisa:

    AS YOU saw in the skit, it was much harder to retain information that is presented in a text-heavy fact-based format. It’s our job to reduce waste, and it’s getting harder—not only to capture those remaining diversion percentages, but it’s also much harder to get through to a public that is more distracted and scattered than ever.

    So, if we are to succeed at our jobs, we have to got to get through to our audience, we’ve got to get our message to matter.
  • I’m serious about the how the public is more distracted than ever. According to a study this year by Microsoft, our attention span has fallen to 8 seconds, while a goldfish can hold his attention for 9 seconds!
    So how can you get through to someone with a 8-second attention span? Your best bet is to make your communication as “vivid” as possible. By “vivid” we mean communications that form distinct and striking mental images. And it works because…
  • Without recall, there is no chance your message will be remembered when it is time to act. And we need people to ACT
  • So on the previous slides, can anyone recall how many blue squares you saw? (26)
    Ok, now how many orange circles? Much easier to recall right?

  • You want your message to be like those orange circles and stand out among the crowd. But how?
  • To get attention and aid recall this you can present the facts in a way that connect to an emotion, tell a story or create a vivid image in the mind. These three strategies can help your message matter. Let’s take a look at each of these ideas one by one.
    I’m going to turn it over to Nancy to take you through the first strategy.
  • Let’s first look at emotional appeals and the role emotions play in crafting an effective message.
    I don’t know about you in the room, but most humans are not rational beings, and for decades advertisers have known and used this knowledge to influence your behavior. SHOW COKE BOTTLE– how many emotional appeals do you connect with this bottle? Coke adds life , Share a Coke and a smile … Open Happiness. A Classic Never Goes Out of Style. Always Cool – others?
    They don’t rely on the facts of what’s in the bottle (hey brown sugar water, now with …), they depend on eliciting an emotional connection to get you to buy it, enjoy it, and tell your friends.
  • How do we know emotional appeal works for environmental work? Research!
    We tested two image ads as you see here (facts vs. turtle) using online advertising to measure their effect on clickthrough rates. Lets see a show of hands for the one you think worked best:
    All those who think it was A?
  • The “B’s” have it, with nearly 7 times the number of clicks. Why do you think it worked for getting attention? [take some comments]
  • Does that mean we have to shock our audience into action? We’ll explore that, but let’s clarify: What IS Emotion, anyway?
  • Emotions are feelings that may or may not be based on facts.

    You can use imagery and words to connect to your audience by triggering feelings such as humor, pride, belonging, joy, desire, lightheartedness, fear, anger, disgust, loss and shame.

    Emotional appeals do not have to be shocking to work. When we need to convince others to act, it is an invitation to display passion, instill a sense of immediacy or threat, or to invite people to be part of something…there are MANY appeals to choose from.
  • Long before social marketing had a name, it was understood that effective communication includes an appeal to the whole person – the head, the heart, and the need to act. Facts are important, but they need support. Emotional appeal supports facts. Just having facts and emotion is not effective without giving the viewer a clear picture of what to do.- the Call to Action Let’s take a look at some examples of emotional appeals from both social marketing and commercial marketing and explore how they use emotion.
  • Here’s an oldie but goodie:. Take a look at one of the original anti litter campaigns.
    Super upbeat, patriotic appeal, confirmation – you did it and its working; everybody is doing it.
    As you can see Coke isn’t alone in using emotional appeal.
    What do you feel, know from this ad? What makes it memorable?

    Peter, you’re a Millennial, how can the emotional appeals in this ad be updated to work today?
  • So you’re probably thinking, well that was the 70‘s, Peter, and you could get away with that feel good stuff then. Well maybe, but let’s flash forward to today and watch another recycling video. This one circa 2015.
    Play video.
    So here, we have a modern day take on the Pitch-in, America video. In essence, the two videos are a lot alike. They both tap into a few core values and feelings -- that sense of doing the right thing, taking pride in one’s city or nation, and most importantly, the idea that we’re all in this together and we each can do our part.
    The Oakland video takes the Pitch-in America concept and makes it community-based and specific. It also features real community members as spokespeople modeling the behavior, and who reflect the diversity of the city. Again, the emotional pull here is pride in being an Oaklander and doing the right thing by recycling.
    This video played on Comcast in Oakland for 16 weeks and reached close to XXXXX views. It was also shared on Youtube. Because we used members of the community in the video itself, it received 500 views within just a few days of sharing the video out through the models networks. And because we used Mandarin speaker, the video was promoted by a Chinese media outlet, without an ad placement or media pitch.
  • Using photos of members of the community is a good way to demonstrate community norms and humanize your program and the behaviors you are trying to promote. Simply put, a “norm” is the social science term for what is “normal” behavior for a community or group. Studies have shown that norming can be more effective as a tool for behavior change adoption than your standard environmental messaging in some instances.
    This is especially interesting idea for recycling efforts, since much of the outreach imagery over the last 20 years has focused on the items themselves and how to sort them. But outreach can also reflect the community with personal appeals, stories, and recognizable local images that resonate.
    This strategy can work more tacitly, as shown above, where there is no direct message…or
  • More directly, with a personal testimonial from Damien, an Oakland resident, about why he recycles. This is also a great example of peer persuasion, which is a powerful norming tool. Think about the most recent advice you received from a friend or family member, you probably listened to them and trusted their recommendation, right? That’s the power of peer persuasion, and it can be leveraged to foster sustainable behaviors.
  • Here’s another example of norming from Atlanta, Georgia that we like. That plays on that notion of fitting in and feeling like you belong. And let’s be honest, we all do want to fit in to some degree, am I right. If everyone’s doing it, why aren’t you?
  • San Francisco recently ran an ad campaign targeting some of its newer residents who are less familiar with the recycling program. It merges a norming message with a sarcastic comment, while tapping into a familiar and quintessential San Francisco feature – it’s hills. While this kind of ad may not work for every community, it shows that you can tap into a sense of place and humor to make your message resonate.
  • Humor can also help people relax and get past barriers… This is a French ad, and is probably edgier than we might see here in the states. So it’s important to know your audience and their sense of humor. But it’s OK to be funny!
  • Many of you may remember this video from last year’s CRRA presentation, but we thought we’d play it again to demonstrate how humor can actually help aid recall of a message. This short PSA for the City of Livermore tells a story and has a memorable main character, along with a verbal repeat of the information at the end, which helps make the message stand out.
    Play video.

    Isn’t Binny great? So this ad was distributed online through Youtube ads and played at a popular local theater for a year.
  • Months after these PSA ads featuring Binny ran, we helped the City of Livermore conduct outreach at a Wine Festival to support the debut of the real-life mascot version of “Binny the Green Cart.” Within just a few hours, a dozen people mentioned to us in passing, “Hey, that’s the pizza box guy!” or “He eats pizza boxes.”
    This confirmed to us, that a memorable character and call to action can aid in personal recall of a message.
  • Remember when I said that people like to fit in? Well this next ad plays on friendly competition between neighbors as well as feeling good about our choices.
    Play video.

    Our hero is smart, credible, and relaxed, and he is comfortable with his choice of solar panels. We may not remember exactly how much money he saves or how many watts his house generates, but we want to be like him.
  • NANCY: Helping people feel good about their behavior is important – it encourages them to take or continue an action.
    One study examines this effect in an energy saving campaign. The utility sent reports about usage, comparing residents’ energy usage to their neighbors’ to encourage a bit of healthy competition. But the company noticed that some of the users who were told they were using less energy than their neighbors started using more. UHOH However, when a smiley face was added to the statement, as a kind of encouragement that they were doing the right thing, users strived to maintain their conservation.
  • And a word about the magic word, “THANK YOU” Not only is thanking people the polite thing to do (thanks, mom!) it also makes outreach messaging more effective. Studies have shown that expressing gratitude makes people more likely to continue a positive activity and also, pass it on! In a 2010 study, 69 participants were asked to provide feedback to a fictitious student on his cover letter for a job application. After sending their feedback by email, they got a reply from Eric asking for more help with another cover letter.
    The twist is that half of them got a thankful reply from Eric and the other half a neutral reply.
    As you might expect, those who were thanked by Eric were more willing to provide further assistance…by a lot! While only 32% of participants receiving the neutral email helped with the second letter, when Eric expressed his gratitude, this went up to 66%.
  • Saying thanks can spur further action. When Binny the green cart made his debut at the Wine Festival, the outreach team talked to residents. Those that were already participating were thanked and told their efforts really made a difference. After the “Thank you” we noticed people opened up and were more willing to talk. Then they were asked to sign a pledge card stating they would recycle all their food scraps and food-soiled paper. If they said yes, they were asked if they would also commit to tell a friend or neighbor about the program. The act of thanking these committed individuals increased their receptivity to taking an additional step.
  • It helps to remember that our target audiences are not merely brains sitting on a chair, motivated by logic and facts -they laugh, cry, aspire – and they can be reached with appeals to their hearts. By adding emotional appeals and a clear call to action, outreach can go farther.
    Beyond emotion, human beings respond to stories – now Stefanie will take it away…
  • Here’s our second strategy, storytelling. Storytelling is perhaps the most powerful way of conveying complex information. Remember our Minor Lakes story at the beginning of the presentation? Player 2 had a much easier time remembering information because it was presented as a story. Using a narrative helps show how things fit together. Let’s look at another story example.
  • This is from a recent campaign by KAB.
    This was a typical story with a hero who faces adversity, shows emotional responses to the challenges and ultimately comes to a resolution. Following along we stay engaged as we share many of the hero’s emotions. And we share them because they resonate with us and experiences we ourselves may have had evn though we’re not bottles.
  • Of course storytelling is not a new concept at all. In fact storytelling predates writing. Maybe the oldest examples of storytelling are cave paintings that go back as far as 13,000 BC. Like this one here they often depicting animals and human beings, and telling a story about rituals and hunting practices. Stories have been part of the human experience for a very long time, and our brains have developed to work in narrative structures. That’s how we make sense of the world. We need the context of narratives to connect cause and effect.
  • Let’s take a look at what happens in the brain.
    On the left you see brain activity when we look at something like bullets on a PPT slide. The areas active in our brain are those two dots, marking those responsible for processing language and decoding words into meaning. They’re called Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas and are active when we make sense of the information.
    In comparison, when we are told a story, possibly presenting the same facts as before but in the context of human experience, additional areas in our brains get activated—the ones we would use if we were to experience the events told in the story ourselves. These areas are the motor cortex responsible for directing physical motion and the somatosensory cortex that is responsible for sensations.
    If a story talks vividly about motion, for example “John desperately reached for the branch” – the red area gets engaged. When we hear narratives like “the singer had a velvety voice” or “Peter enjoyed a delicious cup of hot, creamy cocoa” the pink area gets engaged. And of course the more parts of our brains are active, the better our attention and our recall.
  • Let’s look at study exploring the impact of facts vs. the impact of a story. This study was conducted in 2007 by Carnegie Mellon University.
    Several hundred students were completing a survey and each given $5 as a reward. As they left the survey location they received the $5 in single dollar bills in an envelope along with one of two versions of a letter, each asking for a cash donation. There were donation boxes placed right at the exits.
    Half the students received a facts based letter with statistics about food shortages in Malawi, lack of rain in Zambia, and the dislocation of millions in Angola.
    The other half received a letter about Rokia, a 7-year-old girl from Mail, and how a donation would support Rokia’s family in feeding her and providing her with education and basic medical care.
    FACTS: students gave $1.14 on average
    STORY: students more than twice as much
    The story clearly worked better than the facts. Groups that do a lot of fundraising know this, and you may have even received donation appeals using stories.
    Cecil the lion?
  • Let’s bring it back to the kind of work we all do in the area of environmental behavior change. Here’s an example of storytelling in a recent issue of a quarterly recycling newsletter for residents, called Diversions. This particular issue was focused on food waste, highlighting the local food scrap collection program but also encouraging residents to prevent food waste, for example by preparing meals from leftovers. We featured a local couple and their tips for cooking with leftovers, all communicated in their own words and with a photo of the two enjoying themselves in their kitchen. Letting them tell their own story made the practice we were looking to promote not only more interesting but also helped norm it because readers saw residents just like themselves doing it.
  • I’d like to emphasize that storytelling doesn’t mean you always have to have a full-blown narrative. The same newsletter issue highlighted some micro-stories, if you will, about different residents and their food waste reduction practices, including Chopper the Dog! Note that the folks we featured in the newsletter are real residents and reflective of the readership’s demographics.
  • Storytelling isn’t only reserved for residential outreach, in fact, it works just as well with businesses. Case studies are a great example. A good case study has a hero (or several heroes) who experience and overcome challenges. We would like to encourage you to not shy away from content that conveys the human context of a success story to embed your facts in. This could be a tidbit about a company’s long history as a family business or a quote from the owner or a key staff member that captures their personal voice. All of these elements help make the story resonate with the reader on a personal level and make the content more memorable.
    The example shown here is an Oakland-based coffee roaster who worked with StopWaste on transitioning from disposable bags for their beans to reusable bulk containers. This story appeared on and ran with a number of photos, all showing people, to support the narrative.
  • Stories can also show benefits and how to overcome barriers—two of those famous buzz words we hear when we learn about behavior change!
    I’m going to read a portion of a letter from a breastfeeding campaign in the UK aimed at lower-and middle-income women:
    When I was pregnant, I was just waiting for the midwife to bring up breast feeding. I knew what she would be like…All, what’s the expression, “holier than thou” full of it being best for the baby and free and easy to do.
    Well my midwife was great, she did ask, but only what I thought about it. I tell you, she took the wind out of my sails—I was ready for a lecture but none came. She told me it was my choice and suggested I might want to go to a class where other women like me were encouraged to talk about their feelings about breast feeding and people were on hand to answer questions.
    So I went to the session and it was quite good. We talked about all sorts of stuff like the pain and the responsibility but still no pressure was put on me.
    Even up to the day she was born I hadn’t really decided what to do. But then I thought what do I have to lose? I won’t lie at first, it wasn’t easy and it isn’t always easy now. But I tell you, it is not just hippies who enjoy the bond you feel.

    Let’s review how this story overcomes common barriers to breastfeeding. The spokesperson addressed:

    Fear of being lectured/pressured
    Fear of being labeled a hippie
    Not knowing how
    And described a main benefits:
    Bonding with your infant is for everyone.
    And her personal story made her message feel authentic to mothers struggling with the same issues.

    And now let’s move from storytelling to our last strategy that Kas will present.
  • No matter the budget dollars behind your campaign you can weave “vivid communications” into all your existing outreach efforts, including newsletters, bill inserts, presentations, social media posts, event tabling and more—

    You can change the script, add imagery, feature community members, even add a game or activity.
  • What is vivid communication? 
    Communication full of the vigor and freshness of immediate experience, evoking lifelike images that are heard, seen, or felt as if they were real.

    Here’s my interpretation: it’s mages that make you go “oh, I get it”.

    Example is from an AD CAMPAIGN: Georgia, Clean Air Program this is clever way to depict the positive impact of public transit and carpool options on Atlanta’s freeways.

  • PG&E gives us a great example in how to weave vivid communications into scripts.

    PG&E noticed when auditors visited homeowners s to talked about weather stripping, caulking and attic insulation alone – they did not see homeowners take action to correct any issues.

    In comes Vivid Communication… The auditor would say “If you were to add up all the cracks around and under the doors of your home, you’d have the equivalent of a hole the size of a football in your living room wall. Think for a moment about all the heat that would escape from a hole that size. That’s precisely why I recommend that you install weather stripping.

    And your attic totally lacks insulation. We call that a “Naked Attic” It’s as if your home is facing winter not just without a coat, but without any clothing at all.”
  • Another way to add vivid communication is to MAKE INVISIBLE VISIBLE

    This powerful before and after image is of Lake Orroville in Northern California. It highlights the severity of the drought ….and makes it memorable. …OH I Get it.

  • Let’s talk about Illustrating the data. So you have some facts to convey. It’s okay, facts are important. What we are saying is illustrate the facts in a way that makes them powerful and memorable.

    For example: It’s one thing to say this Glacier receded 8 miles in 100 years and another 8 miles in the last ten years. By overlaying the data with the glacier itself it sends a powerful visual message and increases its impact.
  • The Chasing Ice documentary sent two vidoegraphers to camp on the edge of a glacier in Greenland fairly certain they would witness a calving event – A Calving event is when the ice breaks off and falls into the ocean. These two men got more then they expected, in fact, they witnessed the largest calving event ever recorded.

    But, how do you relate the scale of what was seen to the average person – who is not willing to spend a week in a tent along side a glacier? You take the intangible and make it tangible. How big was the piece that broke off? The size of Lower Manhattan.

    Tip: If you are talking about something that is intangible, make it more tangible. If the person does not have much experience with it, relate it to something with which they have more experience.
    Tip: Make comparisons with well- known landmarks.

  • Consider Infographics. They are a common way of conveying information in a memorable, relatable way.
  • Games!

    Here we created a simple matching game for the CLEAN WATER Program.

    We created a game board with 4 common problems: Dirty Car, Clogged Storm Drain, Leafy driveway and Litter on the ground.
    We gave the participant 5 oversized playing cards, each with a possible solution: Rake, Carwash, Trashcan, Broom & Dust Pan … and a Hose card.
    We asked the participant to match their solution card with the problem.

    We used the extra Hose card to spur conversation about NOT using a hose for these common problems.
  • Vivid communication is about using many senses.

    We created a three cart game for Oakland Recycles to promote composting and recycling behaviors.

    The game engages many senses. It begins with a noisy and attention getting prize wheel. The prize wheel lands on a photo of a common discard and the player must find that game piece and walk over and determine which is the proper cart to use. We coach players as needed and encourage them to look for clues under the lids. The player is engaged kinetically by taking the item, recognizing what it is and physically placing it in the right cart. This aids recall when they are back at home and encounter the same item.

    Sometimes it’s the act of composting food scraps for the first time; for others it may be learning where a “tricky” item goes.

    Players constantly leave the game and say “I learned something today!”
  • So we’ve gone through each of these messaging strategies. We know what it means to appeal to emotion, tell a story and use vivid imagery.

  • The next question is how do we choose the right strategy for our outreach? We’ll wrap up this presentation with a few tips on applying what we’ve learned today.
  • Taking a step back for a moment, let’s review where “Vivid” communication fits in with larger outreach planning. Vivid Communication is part of proven strategic processes, such as Community-Based Social Marketing.

    Notice, though that it is not the first step in the process.

    Never lead with the creative development. (Although we all know it’s the most fun!).

    Your campaign message should be the result of a process that begins with identifying your waste reduction goals, selecting a specific behavior that gets you to that goal, and then…
  • Conducting research. The results my surprise you, so it’s important to do research to identify attitudes and beliefs, as well as to understand actual behavior and participation data in your community. For example, you don’t want to run a campaign promoting the benefits of recycling in general, if the community already supports it, but is doing is simply doing it wrong. Once you know your message, and what motivates your community, you can choose an appropriate message.

    We’ll go through a few best practices for each of the strategies we talked about today.
  • Emotional appeals are great for getting attention and developing awareness. You can express emotion in videos, ads, social media. Even brochures—by adding a warm & friendly cover.
  • Telling a story lends itself to presenting complex information in a way that people get it right away. It’s great for persuading someone to overcome a barrier to participation. Remember the breastfeeding example? Just by listening to one person’s story, the audience relates to and understands how to overcome common mental blocks to trying a new behavior.
  • This strategy can be applied to almost anything you do. Be sure to translate data and numbers into something relatable.
    It’s great for persuasion, and confirmation—that vital step that gives the feedback and thank yous needed to get people to do more.
  • Lastly, Using emotion-based appeals or vivid imagery has not been common practice in zero waste outreach. We had a hard time finding examples. Many public agencies struggle with this. But research does show that using these 3 strategies will help to get your message to matter.
  • Using emotions, stories or vivid communication may not be prevalent in zero waste outreach, but it is not uncommon in other environmental outreach, as we’ve seen with many of the examples we’ve shown today.
    Hopefully we convinced you—it’s vital for our cause that we get our messages to matter. We invite you to try weaving these strategies into your outreach and let us know how it goes. We’d be happy to help you.
  • Here’s how you can reach us if you’d like to connect. Sign up for our blog on our website, for more tips and stories. Also, follow us on Twitter, like our Facebook page, and see our videos on Youtube.
    Next we’ll dedicate some time for questions, and if you can stick around after that we have a workshop exercise for you to practice what you’ve learned today.
    Thank you!