The value of ‘factfulness’ campaigns

Factfulness | Housing communications | See Media blog

I recently finished reading Factfulness by Hans Rosling, a book described by Barack Obama as demonstrating the “hopeful potential for human progress when we work off facts rather than our inherent biases.”

Without giving too much away, the book explains the ten instincts that keep us from seeing the world factually. This includes highlighting the human tendency to pay more attention to ‘scary’ things and standalone numbers, which often look less impressive when put into context.

Filled with lively anecdotes, all throughout I couldn’t help but consider each of the instincts through a PR lens and here, I’ve identified my top three takeaways.

The gap instinct

Many of us have a strong dramatic instinct towards binary thinking – leading us to divide the things at hand into two distinct groups. So, if we were to take the topic of housing, we may group people by identifying them as either renting or homeless. The issue with making generalisations like this is that they are often based on two extremes, which overlook anything that falls within ‘the gap.’ This includes supported housing, temporary accommodation and in-work poverty.

To paint a clearer picture of who your customers or stakeholders are, and better serve their needs, housing providers should begin their campaigns by segmenting individuals into categories. By doing this, you can create a PR and marketing strategy that targets each member of your audience through a set of measurable objectives.

The negativity instinct

Today, many organisations still only look to PR when things go wrong – reacting rather than being proactive. In this section of his book, Rosling explains how our negativity instinct means we naturally notice the bad things rather than the good. Indeed, our inherent bias towards negativity can impact the reputation of entire organisations.

For example, if you’re a housing provider that manages a large number of homes and are featured in a negative piece of editorial, this is likely to stand out in a prospective stakeholders’ minds.

By being aware of the negativity instinct, organisations can take proactive steps to send the right messages, to the right people, through the right medium – creating a stronger, more positive, brand reputation. Doing this will give the public a wider view of your organisation.

The single perspective

This instinct is common among organisations that have large teams. Everyone has their own way of working, priorities and skillset, so, in order to find harmony, many organisations sacrifice individual creativity and commit to a single, simple, idea to try and deliver the desired result.

To counter the single perspective instinct, comms and marketing teams should aim to break out of their comfort zones and test out any proposed ideas for weaknesses, ahead of execution.

By looking at problems from many angles, and making a more accurate assessment of the challenge at hand, organisations can achieve better long-term results.

It’s best to avoid hoping that one tool will solve a problem and instead build a toolbox, with a mix of PR tactics at the ready.


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