Good advice on effective influencing (even if it may have been all made up)

20 January 2011

I found this interesting article by Scott Walter on Pew’s Non-Neutrality that challenges the independence of  Pew in the pursuit of an open internet. Anyway, what I thought I’d share with you is a report called Net Neutrality for the Win that has very useful advice on how to develop an influencing strategy with a particular focus on framing the debate and targeting key audiences with very clear and convincing arguments.

It introduces the Harmony Institute Method for Entertainment Communication:

Four Steps to Integrating Behavioral Science into Entertainment

Our entertainment projects follow a four-step methodology for the application of behavioral science into entertainment.

Step One begins with a thorough review of the specific social issue to be addressed. It is essential that communicators develop a comprehensive understanding of their topic of choice, examining perspectives from existing research and sourcing the opinions of experts, academics and policy-makers. Communicators should look to contact leading organizations within the sector that can offer policy goals and incentives for behavior change for the public. This process also assists in revealing audiences that may be receptive to messaging, and the media platforms they frequent.

Step Two is concerned with locating and understanding target audiences. Most campaigns are effective with a combination of core and persuadable audiences who can be identified through polling, focus groups, and the demographics of supporting organizations. Information gleaned from this step narrows the behavioral science models that should be employed. It also clarifies the media platforms (mobile, web, television, film, ect.) that will successfully transmit compelling information.

The report on net neutrality goes to great lengths identifying the key audiences of the campaign (step 2), including ‘core supporters’ and ‘persuadables’.  It describes them as:


• Ages 18-39

• Male, Caucasian, and registered Democrat

• Over $100k yearly household income

• High level of media and Internet literacy

• See the Internet as a public service just like neighborhood utilities or the nations highways

• Familiar with “net neutrality” as a principle and a term

• Spend more than 20 hours a week online for personal use


• Ages 18-39 or over 60

• Predominantly African American or female

• Self-assign as liberal

• Unmarried

• Live in the U.S. South or rural areas

• Annual household incomes of between $30k- $50k

• Unfamiliar with “net neutrality” as a principle and term until exposed to a measured debate

Step Three focuses on developing recommendations for messaging. Theoretical models from the behavioral sciences are applied with regard to the issue and the known perspectives of target audiences. By working with media professionals who have the artist vision and expertise to create projects that compete on a national level, organizations can employ these recommendations in mass media productions.

The document puts forward 7 recommendations for narrative communication that I summarise (and generalise below):

  1. Don’t allow the opposition to scare your audiences. Fight their arguments by reframing them in your advantage.
  2. Choose the right words to convince your audiences that they can do something to avoid a disastrous outcome -if nothing is done or if things remain the same (or you do not get away with what you want) -they even offer a list of words to use.
  3. Challenge how people view the issue, space or resource you are working on (in this case how they view the internet) for example by helping to develop a sense of ownership of the resource.
  4. Make it personal.
  5. Magnify your message in groups.
  6. Ask for a commitment more than once -e.g. Join a coalition of supporters, such as, Call or write state and congressional leaders and explain why they should endorse net neutrality, Sign petitions directed to Congressional leaders in support of the Internet Freedom Preservation Act, Spread the word by e-mail/Twitter/Facebook, Donate money to organizations lobbying for the open Internet, Support new FCC rules that will ensure net neutrality for all Internet users and businesses at, etc.
  7. Tell a story. In this case, they argue that the story about the open internet is one about civil liberties and economic freedom -not just about techie or nerdy issues. The report adds: Creating narratives about how the Internet impacts people’s lives in positive and profound ways will be more effective than taking a cognitive or policy viewpoint.

Step Four is comprised of impact assessment. Drawing up case studies illuminates the vital lessons learned during a campaign to transform public perception and behavior.

And to finish, some interesting resources from the ref section:

Cialdini, R. B. (2009). Influence: Science and practice (5th Ed.). Boston: Pearson Education, Inc.

Schiappa, E., Gregg, P. B., & Hewes, D. E. (2006). Can one TV show make a difference? Will & Grace and the Parasocial Contact HypothesisJournal of Homosexuality, 51(4), 15-37. doi:l0.1300/ J082v51n04_02.

Barker, K. & Sabido, M (Eds.). (2005, January 6). Soap Operas for Social Change to Prevent HIV/AIDS: A Training Guide for Journalists and Media Personnel. Population Media Center. Retrieved from

Appel, M. & Richter, T. (2007). Persuasive effects of fictional narratives increase over timeMedia Psychology, 10(1), 113-134.

Center for Research on Environmental Decisions. (2009). The Psychology of Climate Change Communication: A Guide for Scientists, Journalists, Educators, Political Aides, and the Interested Public. New York.