Welcome to the third in a series of 6 pieces we’re going to do on the topic of influence and how public relations allows you to generate influence among your customers, your colleagues, and the world at large. We’re going to base this series off the work done by ASU Professor Emeritus of Psychology Robert Cialdini, whose book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, is required reading for many marketers. In his book, Cialdini posits that there are 6 methods or principles on which influence is based:
- Social Proof
Today, we’ll look at consistency. Consistency is one of the hardest concepts to understand initially when you read Cialdini’s work, so here’s a quick review of it. We as human beings like to be consistent with our previous behavior. Cialdini cites this example of consistency. A team of researchers went around half of a neighborhood asking for donations for a new neighborhood pool. The researchers went to the other half and asked them to sign a petition supporting a new neighborhood pool, then came back later in the week and asked those who signed the petition for a donation. The people who signed the petition donated at double the rate of those who were just asked flat out for a donation. Why? Because people felt the need to be consistent with their previous behavior. They signed their support publicly, and thus when asked to donate, their minds wanted them to be consistent in their support.
How do you use this concept in public relations? Believe it or not, this is where PR can be incredibly powerful. Imagine for a moment you get an article placement on the New York Times. Life is good, people are commenting and sharing. In doing so, they’ve taken the first action towards supporting you by their social activities. They’re no longer a cold audience that has never heard of you; in fact, by getting a third party endorsement, if you react in a timely manner, the path has been paved forward for you to influence those people using the principle of consistency. Let’s look at a live example of this. Aarti Shah of the Holmes Report recently did a fantastic article on Big Data and its use in PR. In it, she featured SHIFT Communications.
We can, using any of the popular social media monitoring tools, find out who shared or favorited the article:
From here, we would do exactly like the researchers in Cialdini’s book would do and approach those folks who engaged by sharing the third party content in the same way that researchers asked pool petition signers to donate. “Hey, thanks so much for sharing the Big Data article in the Holmes Report. I’d love to share some of the more in-depth findings with you if you’ve got a few minutes…” would be what you’d put into your marketing automation system or sales CRM as you reach out to appropriate people who might be prospective customers. Because these folks actively reshared or favorited your article, you know they’re engaged. You know they’ve taken an extra step, and that means that the principle of consistency should give you a brief window of opportunity to approach them that you wouldn’t have otherwise.
Integrate your public relations efforts with your sales processes and get the power of consistency working for you today!
Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology