By Karla Webb, Operations Manageramerican-flag-free-image-clipart

By the time this blog entry is posted, the 2016 election will be over. Everyone I know is looking forward to turning our personal and national conversation to new topics.

I’ve heard (and used) the word “vitriol” more in the last 18 months than ever before. It means cruel and bitter criticism. It can also mean “sulfuric acid.” It feels like we collectively need to heal from an acid fight.

A survey by the American Psychological Association revealed that one in four U.S. employees report feeling stressed, argumentative and less productive because of political discussions on the job.

As healthcare marketers and communicators, it’s an excellent time to get back to basics about how to effectively reach those we seek to influence (but not manipulate) with our messages.

These truths may be self-evident, but let’s remember a few principles that have been lost in the fog of the campaign.

  • Listen to words and figure out the feelings. If you really want to reach people, find out what they have to say. And better yet, try to detect the emotions and values behind the words. Once you understand what people feel and believe, your message can have more meaning to your audience.
  • Appreciate the strength of confirmation bias. We all interpret incoming information according to our existing notions. You won’t talk someone out of what they think. Instead, look for a point of agreement and go from there.
  • Don’t be “shouldy.” Nobody likes to be told what to do. Yes, everyone should stop smoking. But if you show an individual who was able to quit playing with their dog and sharing how they feel now, it’s much more powerful.
  • Remove the barriers to action. Give your audience members options on next steps. Some may want more information, some will take a quiz or assessment, some are ready to make an appointment. Make the next action easy for the potential patient, not just the provider. People like to cast their votes at their own convenience. Let’s let them.

With the campaign season behind us, we can hopefully get back to enjoying life, liberty and pursuing happiness. As we connect and communicate with each other and our target audiences with respect and understanding, finding points of agreement, we can live the American dream a little bit more fully no matter who’s in the White House.