Governments can be the best communicators and the worst communicators. Sometimes they produce award winning campaigns that save millions of lives, yet at the same time they often produce baffling letters and confusing forms that leave us frustrated and annoyed.
Focussing on behaviour change for government communicators, a newly compiled “INSPIRE” framework has set out an evidence-based approach for written communications (Faulkener et al, 2018). This framework will be very useful for people working in government communications where small changes in behaviour can provide huge societal benefits – such as encouraging people to vaccinate their children.
“INSPIRE makes it easier for public administrators to use established behavioural science techniques to maximise their impact,” says the framework’s lead author, Dr Nick Faulkner.
Building heavily on the work of Robert Cialdini and persuasion researchers, the framework identifies seven elements that can be used both by government communicators and others in their written communications.
- Implementation intentions – close the ‘intention-behaviour gap’ by encouraging people to make a plan to act.
- Norms – use a combination of injunctive norms and descriptive norms to increase the uptake of desirable behaviours.
- Salience – use visual stimuli, such as colour and symbols, to demand attention.
- Procedural justice – show the fairness of the process by emphasising the accuracy of the
information, lack of bias, consistent procedures and respectful treatment of the individual.
- Incentives – use the right kind of monetary and non-monetary incentives.
- Reputation and credibility – ensure that the communications come from, or are authored by,someone who can inspire belief, and
- Ease – making compliance easier via clear instructions.
These are all fully referenced in the framework, giving you the evidence based for each of these techniques.
Of course, it isn’t just government communicators who could benefit from this – anyone wanting to inspire greater behaviour change through their written communications would benefit from this useful resource.
Faulkner, N. , Borg, K. , Bragge, P. , Curtis, J. , Ghafoori, E. , Goodwin, D. , Jorgensen, B. S., Jungbluth, L. , Kneebone, S. , Smith, L. , Wright, B. and Wright, P. (2018), The INSPIRE Framework: How Public Administrators Can Increase Compliance with Written Requests Using Behavioral Techniques. Public Admin Rev. . doi:10.1111/puar.13004