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These are 3 sisters sometimes seen together in the corridors of the organization. But, more often, they wander around on their own. To help with the right identification, here are their traits. They are called Messaging, Triggering and Sustaining.

  1. Messaging. We are not too bad at this, people say. Well, we think we are good. Over time, we have learned to frame information and send it down the organizational pipes. We have created functions such as Internal and External Communications. Most of ‘traditional communications’ stays here: the quality of the message, the length, the focus, the communication plan. A bit of headline management, and a bit of compressing information into core messages, plus a bit of spin. OK. This is an attention model: will I get enough of views/clicks/seconds of attention? Here, a powerful message is a message arriving to its destination. The A/B testing ‘sophistication’ lives here. Is one headline better than other in travelling and being received? Free tools will even tell you if your headline is too long, or short, or not emotional enough, with a score. This area of focus assumes ‘something intrinsic’ in the way the message is crafted and tsunami-ed. People spend a lot, a lot of time here. Welcome to the kingdom of content.
  1. Triggering: Small detail, the issue is not just one of attention and clicking but whether it may end up triggering something: behaviours? The art of triggering is different from the art of messaging. Behavioural Economics knows this well. Reframing the message may result in different behaviours. People who changed the signs in the park: ‘we’ll fine you heavily if you litter here’ (sort of) for ‘most people took their litter home in the last 6 months’, know this. The latter always wins. People who could change ‘15% of teenagers get drunk here on Friday night’ to ‘85% of teenagers have fun and don’t get drunk here’, would/should know this. The latter will shape an environment. On the whole, triggering is not a big deal, we all do this all the time. The problem is that sometimes we don’t know what exactly we are triggering. Bigger problem, we think we are triggering A but we are in fact promoting B. This is the kingdom of Nudging (see below)
  1. Sustaining. Ah! I wish it were as ‘easy’ as messaging and triggering. Here we aim at making it sustainable. A motivational address in an offsite may be fantastic at messaging, and indeed may trigger a lot of enthusiasm, ideas, commitments, even actions; that does not make it good at sustaining those actions. It fact, it is unlikely to have the power. The laws of messaging are different from the laws of triggering; the laws of sustaining (behavioural) are also completely different. For sustaining you need a ‘network effect’, a scale up, amplification, multiplication and reinforcing system. Or it may fade. (The Viral Change Mobilizing Platform deals with the three of them: messaging, triggering and sustaining). The ‘Nudge Theory’ of inducing behaviours falls into ‘triggering’. ‘Nudge’ (Chicago school, behavioural economics, Richard Thaler) has been embraced by policy makers such as the ones in the UK government. But Nudge does not seem to care much about the network effect and sustaining. So it gets a bit (unfairly) trivialised as mickey mouse pseudo-psychology.

These 3 sisters are triplets. They have lots in common, yet they are very different, although they may look the same. People date them, but sometimes they get the wrong one. How embarrassing! Messaging may not be powerful enough at triggering, and triggering may not be powerful enough at sustaining. Your goal is not to get the wrong sister for the ball. Do your homework; go beyond the looks.

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