Do Fear Messages Really Work?

We were debating this question at a presentation workshop I ran last week. It’s an important issue whether you are Extinction Rebellion or you are talking about a tough issue with your team or customers. The answer is surprising.

The answer is yes and no.

Fear works well to gain attention. The Extinction Rebellion rallies really make me sit up. They create great stories to tell.

But if you want people to act you need to move sharply into action-oriented messages, or they will switch off. If we are bombarded with just negativity, it all becomes too difficult and too overwhelming, so we talk a lot, but we do nothing.

It’s also about setting out specific and easy first steps. First steps so we can see the reward. So, to stick with the environmental theme – the articles you see about ‘5 Things You Can Do Today’ are positive and helpful. (But they need to be told with more oomph!)

The interesting kicker on all this is that if what you are suggesting does not resonate with someone’s values, social norms or things that are important to them it won’t work. The coal industry in Australia has tried positive messaging but this has been very much received as spin soundbites. Gosh. Perhaps that means we do see through fake news? Now there’s a thought.

If you would like to tell your story to encourage awareness and to change behaviour or to build your confidence and executive presence for meetings, presentations or for difficult conversations, do contact us. We will help you build a powerful communications strategy and an engaging way of telling the story for the occasion as well as working with you on your vocal energy and physical presence.