The 10 principles of engagement
Date: 11 September 2012 10:41
For effective communication it is vital to engage. Engagement may be an emotional connection, but PR firm Weber Shandwick has taken a scientific approach to analyse exactly how engagement works. This research has identified ten common principles of engagement:
1. Engagement is a finite resource, not an infinite commodity.
Engagement with one thing is always at the expense of another. Attention and effort are limited.
2. Engagement requires reciprocity.
Engagement costs people time, effort and energy. The brain processes this cost in relation to the expected reward.
3. Engagement is not binary.
Engagement is not a light to be switched on and off within people. How brands choose to capitalise on the right types of engagement across various channels and topics is the key issue.
4. Engagement is about what we want or what we like.
Our brains process all decisions as potential rewards driven by two systems, what we want and what we like.
5. Immediacy delivers engagement.
Our brains have evolved to make snap decisions based on the anticipation of immediate reward. These decisions are not always conscious.
6. Engagement decisions are post-rationalised.
People are often unaware of the reasons behind their decisions. Communications equip the conscious brain with a rational story justifying subconscious impulses.
7. Engagement can be divided into “capture” and “build”.
For example, you can be more engaged with a piece of furniture you assemble than with a piece ready-made. Professor J Norton, associate professor of business administration in the Harvard University Marketing Unit termed this the “IKEA effect”.
8. Engagement benefits from being multi-layered
Neuroscience tells us that the sheer number of associations that a person has with a brand leads to a positive effect on engagement.
9. Negatives always outweigh positives.
Our brains are more driven to minimise risks than seek potential gains. Studies suggest that negative emotions carry roughly twice as much weight as positive ones.
10. Engagement marries experience with expectation.
Any engagement decision is shaped by an individual’s personal experience and also their expectations. Over-delivery is a surprise and under-delivery a disappointment. Over time, individuals grow to expect what they have previously experienced.
Discussing these rules of engagement, Adam Mack, chief strategy officer EMEA, Weber Shandwick, says that they allow organisations to amplify and direct their communications for maximum effect, which is difficult in a society where there are so many channels available to consumers, and so many types of messages: “In the UK, there are more Twitter users than newspaper readers. More video is uploaded in 60 days on YouTube than the three major US networks produced in 60 years. As Facebook nears one billion active users, it is clear that people are hugely engaged with each other – but are they really engaging with brands and businesses (and the causes they hold dear) as much as they could be? What drives people to spend time, effort and energy on some things, but not on others? Why are we more engaged with kittens on YouTube than uprisings against dictatorships in the Middle East?”
Mack believes that an engaged audience is a must for any organisation, and concludes: “engagement starts with people. People choose to engage. Their choices result in advocacy, shares, attention, likes, followers and purchases.”
Weber Shandwick collaborated with behavioural insights practice Canvas8. The principles were developed by a team consisting of anthropologist Dr Grant McCracken, author of Culturematic, Culture and Consumption and Transformations, psychologist Dr Olivier Oullier, professor of behavioural and brain sciences at the Aix-Marseille University and neuroscientist Dr Thomas Ramsoy, head of research at the Decision Neuroscience Research Group at the Copenhagen Business School.