The Change Gap
You can buy attention, but you can’t buy trust. Trust is earned. Trust takes time.
Trust is the enabler of connection and persuasion. The time between attention and action is what the author calls the Change Gap. There are many real world examples of companies who have successfully bridged the Change Gap. Think about the products and services we didn’t know we wanted but now consume or use regularly. Bottled water, ride-sharing services, reusable coffee cups, coworking spaces, bean-to-bar chocolate, yoga pants, nail bars, coconut oil and meal kits are just a few. The people and companies who convinced so many of us to be open to these products and services bridged the Change Gap by being purposeful storytellers.
Purposeful storytelling starts with the Story Compass
Purposeful storytelling is about designing and deploying why and how of your story before you start to tell it. You have to know who you want to influence and why—to be clear about what’s driving your story, before you consider what, where, when and how you’re going to deliver the message to those people you hope to reach and change. The Story Compass is a simple communication tool designed for such purpose.
Story Drivers: Define Your Strategy
The reason our stories, messaging and marketing fall flat is that the people we want to serve are not motivated by our need to be seen, to be heard or to close a sale. People—your audience, customers and clients—are motivated by their need to be seen, heard and understood. We all are. When you understand your audience’s mindset—what they think, feel, say and do—and their motivation—what they would like to think, feel, say and do—then you can begin to tell stories that resonate with them.
Attention: If people are not interested in your message, they won’t connect with your cause or brand.
Connection: If people don’t trust you, they won’t be persuaded by you.
Persuasion: If people don’t understand the benefit to them, they won’t be persuaded to act.
Action: When people know, trust and understand why they should act, they do.
Before you begin to craft your message, you need to decide if the purpose of that message is to get attention or to deepen trust and connection. Is it to empower people to be open to persuasion or to act? Perhaps it’s some combination of all four drivers. Story Drivers serve as your reminder about the job you’re asking the story to do.
Story Delivery: Design and Deploy Your Tactics
Once you know why you’re telling the story you can begin to work on how to best tell it. The tactics you use to get your message across are the how of your story—the means by which you carry out your strategy.
The How of Your Story
The communication tactics you use in a specific situation can help you to drive change. These include things like print advertising, product giveaways, group meetings, a private conversation, a pitch, phone call, email, video, a tweet, word of mouth, a recommendation or a review.
The What of Your Story
The tools and the media that will support you in communicating your message might be words, images, data collection, design or price. This is where you get more specific about the best communication tactics to use to convey your message
The When of Your Story
We often overlook the importance of timing in communication. We need to avoid starting too early or being too late, communicating too often or not often enough. People are more receptive to being influenced at some times than others. It’s vital to understand how the timing of your message could affect your audience’s response to it.
The Where of Your Story
Conveying your message and achieving your goals. Geography and tradition can influence where you choose to show up to tell your story.
To begin with, know where your audience spends time. Are they online or offline? What places do they avoid? Could you design a place where your best customers would want to gather? Have you earned their permission or are you simply spamming them?
Real-life Examples of Purposeful Stories
How Airbnb Enabled Trust and Changed the Hospitality Industry
The Airbnb founders were thinking about how much and what kind of information a traveller would need in order to trust a stranger enough to book a room in their home. It’s likely that prospective guests have a couple of unanswered questions in the back of their minds before they book. How do I know I can trust this person? Will this place be a dive? Airbnb’s founders needed to increase hosts’ bookings by helping guests to get answers to these questions. They knew they had to help their hosts to earn the trust of prospective guests, so connection was their key driver.
It was only after they stayed in 24 of the listings in New York that the founders realised the problem wasn’t with the listings, but with how they were being marketed.
Instead of sending an email to hosts, telling them to take better photos Gebbia and Chesky rented an expensive camera, using it to take photos of as many New York listings as they could. In 2010, Airbnb partnered with professional photographers and offered hosts the opportunity to schedule an appointment to have their listings photographed. (Airbnb funded this service until 2017; it is now charged to hosts.
Bookings doubled, and in some cases tripled on the listings that had been ‘professionally’ photographed. This resulted in a doubling of revenue from New York listings the month after the founders’ visited the hosts. A professionally photographed listing is two and a half times more likely to be booked. The company went from having just 20 partner photographers in 2010 to 2000 in 2012
How Hotels Get Us to Reuse Towels
Hotels want to persuade guests to reuse towels. Hoteliers need to find a relatively quick route from getting the customer’s attention in the moment to helping them take a small action—rehanging their towel.
If you’ve stayed in a hotel over the last couple of years, you will have seen notices in hotel bathrooms that act as nudges, encouraging guests to do their bit for the environment by reusing their towels. Researchers studied which of the four messages trialled in their study were most effective. Two of the messages, written on small signs placed in the bathroom, encouraged guests to partner with the hotel to save energy or to help protect the environment. The other two notices stated firstly that 75 percent of hotel guests reuse their towels and more specifically that 75 percent of guests who stayed in that very room reused their towels.
All of the notices had some positive effect in changing behaviour. The most effective message was found to be one that read, ‘Over 75% of the guests who stay in this room decide to reuse their towels a second day. Please hang your towels if you also want to reuse your towels tomorrow.’
The messages that urged guests to help the hotel save energy or protect the environment were significantly less effective than messages pointing to social norms. In other words, we want to conform with what our peers are doing. We want to fit in and to belong. That deep-seated need can be tapped to change behaviour.
How Oddbox Made Wonky Fruit and Vegetables a Hit
A huge percentage of the fruit and vegetables grown by farmers globally is wasted because it doesn’t meet supermarket’s strict aesthetic standards. Supermarket customers reject fresh produce that doesn’t fit with their perception of what a perfect piece of fruit or veg should look like. Farmers can’t sell this produce to supermarkets, so tonnes of it is wasted every year. To help solve this problem, Oddbox wanted to partner with growers to salvage their perfectly good, fresh but misshapen produce. The company needed to change the prospective customer’s perception about fresh produce perfection. Oddbox’s strategy depended on their message hitting home with customers who shared their values and worldview.
Oddbox began offering delivery of a fruit and veg box that was full only of misshapen fruit and vegetables at a price point that’s 30 percent less than companies delivering conventional ‘perfect’ fruit and veg boxes. Part of their storytelling strategy is reduced pricing. But the message the company leads with is waste reduction. They are educating customers about the scale of the problem. If you’re the kind of person who cares about the environment, food waste and poverty, then it’s likely that supporting Oddbox will align with your values and reinforce the story you tell yourself about how you are doing your bit. The company’s brand name calls out their key differentiator and positions them in a market of one.
Oddbox experienced sales growth of 650 percent between April 2017 and 2018. At the time of writing, the company has 2,500 people on its waiting list to become customers. Oddbox has plans to expand its delivery and storage capabilities to meet demand.
What we see from these stories is that the brands that succeeded in telling the right story spent the majority of their time understanding the change they wanted to create and the impact they wanted to have. They developed superior products and understood who it was for, before they began to tell the story to those prospective customers. They didn’t focus only on how they could get the customer to act. They considered the role the company or organisation had to play as they helped to change people’s minds and win their hearts.