How to use emotional triggers to become a more effective communicator; you don’t need a Form Guide to master it

If you’re an Aussie reader, you will know exactly what this post is all about. For my international audience, please forgive me for introducing an idea you may find difficult getting your head around; but believe me when I say, in Australia, on the first Tuesday of November (today), there is a horse race that brings everything in the country to a halt for about 15 minutes. Save that… it’s safe to say many businesses have Melbourne Cup functions from midday, which often bleed into the late evening. A bizarre concept? Well, if you look from the outside in, absolutely! For Aussies, it’s part of our culture. It reveals the power of emotion – an extremely compelling intoxicant. It also begs the question… is it possible to harness our emotional triggers to enhance our ability to communicate and engage?

Now before you tell me it’s all about the gambling, let me counter that and say for many, it’s more about the fashion. Regardless of the impetus, there are professional lessons to be learned from this iconic event. My point is, The Melbourne Cup is far more than a race. And for the purpose of being topical and timely, it’s a classic example of how purposeful communications can draw on human emotions – an important skill any Comms Pro should have, whether they work for a Charity, a Bank, or a Restaurant.

Emotional triggers range from fear, to belonging, to hope, to competition, compassion and everything in between, including celebrating the essence of ‘being Australian’, as the Cup promoters would have you believe. The ad guys have long been aware of how to play on these things to grab people’s attention, but as Comms Pros, what does it mean to us?

We must be aware of the the sequence of relationships: Otherwise referred to as transactional triggers, Big Data analytics mean mass personalisation is not only possible, but necessary in order to tailor our communication with individuals. For example, knowing what I bet on last year in the Melbourne Cup, may again play a factor in triggering my spending this year. Alternatively, it could be used to convince me not to spend again.

The importance of patterns: Sometimes referred to as recurring triggers, it’s based on my peripheral actions. For example, on this date every year I may buy a bottle of champagne in hope I’ll be celebrating at the race’s conclusion! It might be that I buy a new suit when Spring kicks in, or that I take a higher number of taxis in this season. Subsequently, what do these patterns suggest about my mood?

Attitudinal reactions to different events: These are behavioral triggers. As an example, what my time looks like during certain calendar milestones. Do I spend this time with friends, colleagues, family? Am I at home, or out? In other words, how am I inclined to indulge this experience? And what role do those people or places play in the communication process? It also crosses over into other events. Does my support of Movember increase, or decrease for instance? And what does that imply?

Learning about limits: Threshold triggers determine how hard to push. In other words, how much you can play up the emotion before it becomes taxing on the audience. For example, Melbourne Cup may be the only time I place a bet all year, or it may be the 20th. Each emotional indicator folds into the other.

Indeed, we are emotionally driven creatures. Our proclivity is to indulge the material that best feeds our interests. As Comms Pros, the key learning is, how we scope the science behind the storyline.

– My name is Aaron Crowther. Follow me on Twitter @ascommstweeter

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