I founded The Gotfried Group because I realized I could achieve unprecedented results for clients by grounding the agency’s work in what behavioral and educational science finds as the most effective ways to communicate.

While some of the learnings from these two disciplines have been adopted by other agencies and communication professionals, much of it occurs by accident and not by careful study of these disciplines.

Narratives as a mode to influence

For example, the use of narratives for persuasive purposes continues to gain popularity, and for good reason. It works. But if you don’t know how and why it works, you are probably creating narratives to influence that miss the mark, or more likely the case, do not achieve the full impact possible.

Narratives have been shown to erode barriers created by cognitive dissonance, the uncomfortable feeling a person gets when they receive facts that go against their currently held beliefs or attitudes. Because we don’t like to be uncomfortable, we find ways to ignore or delegitimize these facts to preserve our preconceived beliefs. By using the narrative, we focus on the elements of the story, which drowns out any negative feelings that may have been created. This phenomena opens us up to the persuasive effects of the information.

Terence Flynn, Director of the Institute of Public Relations’ Behavioral Insights Research Center, in his October 2016 blog provides a quick and easy explanation of the different factors that cause cognitive dissonance.

Just creating a narrative does not guarantee maximum results. Getting the best result also requires understanding its many components including how the influencing content is embedded; the relationship between the characters and the target reader; and how interesting or entertaining the narrative is to the reader. A paper by Michael Slater and Donna Rouner, published in 2002 by International Communications Association brings to light many of the important factors that influence the effectiveness of a narrative.

The takeaway is that a better understanding and use of narratives can help you increase your persuasive capabilities.

Understanding the impact of infographics

Another example is the use of infographics. The use of these highly visual, creative tools continues to expand. They have become a part of every good communicator’s toolbox. And just like the narrative, they continue to gain in popularity because they can work. And just like narratives, if you don’t know how and why they work, you probably are missing out on their full impact.

Educational science provides the roadmap on the different ways individuals learn best. There are several learning modality theories with the most common being VAK or visual, auditory and kinesthetic (physical experiences). The idea is that individuals have a preferred learning style, and by creating content designed to meet an individual style, the readers will learn and retain more of the information presented to them. The University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth provides a succinct overview of the VAK model.

The infographic seems to be the answer to reaching everyone whose learning style is visual. It isn’t. Not all visual learners are the same. Some learn better with text, and others with graphics. If you don’t understand the nuances of visual learners, your infographic could miss the mark.

An infographic’s value can further erode if you don’t keep in mind other learning styles not included in the VAK model. These include sequential learners, global learners, sensing learners and intuitive learners.

Both the narrative and infographic are examples of how behavioral and educational science research have found their way into the tactical execution of strategic communication campaigns. Unfortunately, many who use them are not getting their full impact because they do not fully understand how and why the work. This is not the case with The Gotfried Group.

By using the latest research on what draws our attention, how we learn and understand, what influences and inspires us to act, the strategic communications and public relations agency provides transformational communications in the most effective way possible.