In a previous post, I summarized some of Chip Heath's findings as written in his latest both "Switch: How to Change When Change is Hard" [Key Takeways from ACMP Day 1]. Heath refers to our thinking self as the Rider and our emotional or motivational self as the Elephant (picture a Rider on an Elephant trying to sway the Elephant in a direction the animal doesn't want to go and you begin to understand the theory). In order to get them to move, both the Rider and the Elephant need to be engaged.

This got me to thinking of different personal examples that might reinforce Heath's theory. I frequently work with clients on their communications and have fallen short at times getting them to understand the importance of appealing to an individual's emotional self in business communications directed towards a change. Then I recalled Kony2012- both a personal example for me and one that dominated the news not so long ago.

I knew of Joseph Kony for years, I had read many stories of the horrible atrocities he has committed in Uganda in several magazines and online newspapers. However, when I would try to reference him in conversation, I could never recall his name. Then came Kony2012. Kony2012 was a powerful video that went viral online through Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Created by Invisible Children, it has been the single most powerful communication to the world about what has been happening for two decades. All of a sudden, everyone knew who Joseph Kony was and wanted to help. The United Nations and African Union have renewed their efforts to arrest Kony, donations have to Invisible Children has risen. People's Elephants had become engaged. Because my Elephant was more fully engaged by the use of social media and visuals to illustrate the personal impacts this man has had on so many women, children and families, I will now never forget his name.

This example demonstrates the importance of targeting what motivates people when developing communications strategies. Compelling messages are remembered. Compelling messages are created by engaging the Elephant. This is where most change efforts fail- the communications only appeal to the Rider. The Rider no matter how much he tries will never overpower the Elephant for a sustained period of time. Many organizations were furious regarding the popularity of the Kony2012 campaign; they had been writing and speaking about Joseph Kony for years with much less support and certainly less media coverage…because they appealed only to the Rider. Invisible Children did something that the other groups hadn't before- they engaged the Elephant and created a compelling message.

When you create a compelling message, you may not need to repeat it as often. The impact of the message onto the audience's Elephants is what makes the message stick. By appealing only to the Rider, not only will you need to repeat communications consistently to try to get adoption to your change initiative, you will still get less adoption than if you appealed to both the Rider and the Elephant. Consider this when creating your next communications in support of a change initiative.