Start the Week 2013: 07 Nudge, Findus…


Public Relations is about changing behaviours and one of the more interesting models for how this can be done is Nudge Theory.

Commonsense tells us that it easier to make small changes than big, and that creating the right conditions for change can be a powerful tool. Now, as reported in the Daily Telegraph, successes claimed by the UK Government’s Behavioural Insights team, seem to support the ideas developed in Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness, by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein .

An example is loft insulation. Although insulation is a clearly good thing – it saves people money – despite huge subsidies, people were relucatant to take advantage of government grants. The Nudge Team quickly identified the problem: laziness. More specifically, the sheer hassle of clearing an attic before you can insulate it. And so, in a pilot trial in September 2011, they suggested a simple solution: that insulation firms offer to clear the lofts first, and dispose of our unwanted junk. In weeks, the uptake increased threefold, even though it cost the customer more.

Revelations that horsemeat is to be found in burgers and other convenience foods manufactured by some big name brands is providing an irresistible target for joke tweets… and a galloping reputational nightmare for PR teams representing Findus and others trying to rein in the damage.

As Charles Arthur explains in Findus and horsemeat: how social media keeps a story on the boil, “Readers like their stories like their ready meals: simply labelled, ready to reheat, easy to cook up, quick to consume.”

The problem for those in PR and communications is that once a topic takes flight, shifting public opinion is astonishingly hard. Journalists, and readers, like their stories like their ready meals: simply labelled, ready to reheat, easy to cook up, quick to consume. These days, a news titbit can leap off the pages to become a running joke and source of japery online, and won’t shift until it’s stopped being a trending topic. Even then, it will remain embedded in web pages’ DNA, where search engines will slurp it up and re-serve it to anyone who happens to do the appropriate search.

Conversation and engagement are put forward as the Holy Grail of social media campaigns, but as a thought-provoking examination of comments made on newspaper and magazine websites, It’s tough below the line, Martin Belam shows that the discussions can often be of little benefit and are often unpleasant, unproductive and unhelpful.

Not sure what is new in this, but Software that tracks people on social media created by defence firm:  Raytheon’s Riot program mines social network data like a ‘Google for spies‘, is quite a chilling demonstrations on what can be done with data each of us makes public without really thinking.

PC Pro magazine asks whether it is possible to eradicate your internet traces, and talks to, a firm that claims to be able to do just that.

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