There is a concept in communication theory which gets too little attention when we plan campaigns. It is the concept of self-efficacy. Closely related to empowerment, but still different.
I first met the concept while studying the 13 steps of the communication process outlined by McGuire, where the step of self-efficacy was analyzed as an important step, where the receiver of communication could dismiss the further steps of successful communication.
At first this didn’t seem to make much sense to me. Do we really need to perceive ourselves as being able to deliver on the desired action before we will take in the message? I wasn’t sure.
Working with the complexity of motivation recently, I once again stumbled upon this. To what use is communication about “How to run a marathon” if you do not see yourself ever (like really never ever) being able to do that. Will you engage in the communication? Will you allow it more than 2 seconds of your time? What are the chances that you will spend the 30 minutes of times it actually demands for the communication product to actually explain to you how you can get closer to the marathon goal? Will it more likely alienate you and make you spend less time on the message? I am pretty sure that the answer to the last question is “yes”.
In this case it is pretty obvious that communication you perceive as not talking to you, will quickly be ignored.
In a totally other context I was catching up on TED2012 and fell over the always amazing David Kelley from IDEO talking about creating creative confidence. There is still only a blog summary of the talk available, but the point is clear. You have to keep your confidence in creativity to be able to deliver. Read the summary here. In other words; if you do not see yourself as creative, you will not continue to be creative. I know Kelley has another point to make with this example, but for me it was just another brick in understanding human motivation. And as contemporary creatives and planners our key task must be to motivate the consumers.
Taking these into account I am getting to a point where I will advocate the idea about considering self-efficacy when planning campaigns. Ask yourself the following three questions, to be sure your message will be more likely to get through the difficult path of successful communication.
1: Will the target population find themselves able to actually buy, do or act as the communication directs them to?
2: How will other receivers (intentional and unintentional) see themselves in the desired actions?
3: Can you draw out different scenarios for interpretations in the target population according to their ability to perform the actions suggested in the creative solution? Will this affect the need for further segmentation of the receiver group?
These has always been relevant questions in the planning process, but I will from now on stress the importance of these.