Leading with love (for our audiences)

Leading with love (for our audiences)

We just passed Valentine’s Day, which means love ♥ is on the mind.

Even if you don’t officially celebrate the holiday, the day still serves as a helpful reminder to show love to those around us.

Including a special group we may not spend enough time showing love to: our target audiences.

Now, I don’t mean sending chocolates and heart-shaped cards to every member of our target audience, although I’m sure they wouldn’t mind receiving that.

I mean showing love by channeling empathy for them.

“Empathy is the ability to recognize, understand, and share the thoughts and feelings of another person, animal, or fictional character. Developing empathy is crucial for establishing relationships and behaving compassionately. It involves experiencing another person’s point of view, rather than just one’s own, and enables prosocial or helping behaviors that come from within, rather than being forced.”
» from Psychology Today

To channel empathy for our audience, we should spend time “walking in their shoes” and looking at life from their perspective.

This gives us a better understanding of what’s going on in their world.

It can even uncover reasons we’ve not yet considered for why they may or may not do the desired behavior (as we suffer from our own curse of too much knowledge!)

Practicing empathy also helps us keep what’s important to our audience front-of-mind when developing outreach efforts.

As a result, we are able to:

  • Select more effective message frames that resonate with their experiences and perspectives.
  • Focus on what matters most to them when highlighting the benefits of doing the desired behavior.
  • Identify ways of reaching them with our messages based on where they spend their time.
  • Cut through the clutter of all the other messages out there by making the audience feel seen and understood.

Areas we can explore to better understand the audience

Gaining a deeper understanding of the audience is often done through a combination of conducting primary research (typically qualitative), reviewing secondary research, and pulling from your team’s first-hand experiences with the audience.

Areas I recommend exploring include the following questions.

How do they spend their day and free time?

This information helps us explore how the desired behavior does, or can, fit into their daily routines and when the audience may have the mental bandwidth to tackle a new habit.

What are their interests and hobbies?

Even if their primary interests are not explicitly related to the environment, there could be an opportunity to connect their current interest with the desired behavior.

Like connecting the hobby of cooking with plant-based eating, or engaging bird watchers in freshwater conservation topics.

What problems or stress factors are they trying to solve?

With a clearer picture of the stress, anxiety, or problems our audience grapples with, we can assess if any of the steps in the behavior journey can alleviate a source of stress.

Right now, we can think of a litany of stress factors, much of it related to Covid-19: personal health, education for children, juggling family and work, and so on.

I know a number of conservation organizations that offered virtual webinars for children during the pandemic to provide educational resources for kids AND give parents a much-needed break.

Reducing two stress factors at once.

Clink on the image below to see how the Faroe Islands used the pandemic lockdown as an opportunity to give tours to more people – creating an environmentally-friendly distraction for those at home.

Image of smartphone on left in a video game mode with picture of visitor to the Faroe Islands on the right side.

What are their aspirations?

We’re all working towards being better versions of ourselves, which is more universal than audience specific.

But consider how your audience defines success and what types of goals they hope to achieve. This can create opportunities to show how the desired behavior can help them achieve those goals and provide a feel-good boost.

What social groups do they identify with or belong to?

Who the audience hangs out with and the groups they identify with influences their behaviors and norms. Group identities are often flexible enough to incorporate new norms if they seem to fit the vibe of the group.

Could organic food eaters also become invasive plant warriors – possibly! It’s worth exploring.

What turns them off about this topic?

This information is simply good to know so we STEER CLEAR of messaging that heads down that path.

Leading with love

Now that we’re equipped with empathy and love for our audiences, we can design our behavior change programs with them front-of-mind.

This should impact everything we work on, from designing the behavior journey to identifying their challenges with adopting the desired behavior to crafting messages that motivate action.

Leading with love ♥ for the audience prevents us from pushing them away from the cause (for example, by mistakenly using shame) and instead welcomes them in.

Leading with love ♥ moves us away from talking AT the audience towards authentically connecting WITH the audience.

Leading with love ♥ means we recognize that doing something new or different is never easy and we should support our audiences along the way.

I’m writing and sharing this with ♥.