5th December 2016

How do you change perceptions or behaviour?

A recent report by the industry body Engineering UK found that the country needs to produce a further 69,000 engineers a year to meet current demand. Yet in 2014 when the Department of Industry polled British children, just 15 per cent said they would consider engineering as a career, while 40 per cent called it boring – and over half described it as “dirty”.

Clearly there is a disconnect between the perception people have of engineering and the 21st century reality. This has resulted in the industry embarking on a multi-channel campaign to address its public image – but as those at the forefront of the manufacturing sector no doubt appreciate, it is a gradual process.

In the communication world, image re-calibration and encouraging people to actually do something requires patience and brings special challenges.

Regardless of whether the job in hand is addressing long-held beliefs and understanding, or is aimed at changing behaviours, the rules for success are the same.

Here are seven things you should include in communication plans and campaigns to deliver results:

  1. Benchmark. You can’t see how far you’ve come if you don’t establish your starting point.
  2. Commit to the long term. It took time to develop the perceptions or behaviours in the first place – so things won’t change overnight.
  3. Speak with one voice. Join forces with other stakeholders, meet regularly and make sure you are all united behind one over-arching strategic goal.
  4. Don’t just “tell”. Too often the communication focus stops at informing or educating. Your plans need to break down all the target audiences, identify the communication channels relevant to them, and address barriers. Where possible, activities should be extended to include motivating people – and making it easy for them to act.
  5. Be flexible. The best laid plans can be amended to take advantage of changing circumstances. Make sure you have effective, timely feedback loops, so your campaign can evolve over time.
  6. Be realistic. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…. Address the issues you can first – and don’t raise unrealistic expectations.
  7. Have clear and measurable goals, informed by research. And use the research to inform the strategy and track success.

By Sue Milne-Bennett, B2B Deputy-Managing Director