Psychology of communications – what can communicators learn from the behavioural sciences?

29 June 2017
09.30 - 17.00

CharityComms organisational and individual members: £175+vat
Corporate Partners: £220+vat
Small charity (income up to £1m): £195+vat
Medium charity (income £1-5m): £245+vat
Large charity (income £5m - 10m): £280+vat
Super large charity (income £10m+): £310+vat
Corporate/Public sector: £395+vat

Please note that the venue is located in the Canary Wharf area by the South Quay DLR station

CCT Venues - South Quay
193 Marsh Wall
E14 9SG

This conference is now fully booked. Please email Robyn if you'd like to be added to the waiting list.

Research is giving us increasing insights into what makes some messages cut through and catch on, while others just bounce off, and what makes some designs work, while others fail to engage.

Following the success of our sell-out behaviour change conference in 2016, we’ll be diving into comms theory and psychology to help you refine and improve your communications projects.

Find out how organisations are applying learning from behavioural science to design communications and products that connect, and drive real-world action and change.

On the agenda:

  • Emotion - how emotion can drive action
  • Audience insight – understand what makes your targets tick
  • Copy that clicks – applying behavioural nudges to your content
  • Changing attitudes, changing behaviour – how do they connect?
  • Psychology of sharing – how to make your content shareable
  • Reframing – getting people to see an issue differently
  • Engaging values to drive social action
  • Persuasion design – seamless experiences that draw people in
  • Understanding motivations – why do people behave the way they do?

Refreshments and snacks will be provided during the breaks and at lunch you'll have a choice of three hot meals (one meat and two vegetarian options) plus a salad bar and desserts.

Have a question about the content? Please get in touch with Emma. Have a question about the event in general? Please get in touch with Harri.

On the agenda

09.30 - 10.00 Registration and refreshments
10.00 - 10.05

Adeela Warley, CEO, CharityComms

10.05 - 10.30 What makes people tick?           
In this short introduction to values, Pat will explore why people think the way they do and how you can use this knowledge to develop communications that influence attitudes and behaviours. Pat will demonstrate the use of values in action with examples from the commercial, public and charity sectors to inspire and kickstart the day.
Pat Dade, founding director, 
Cultural Dynamics Strategy and Marketing
10.30 - 11.00 Fame, feeling and fluency: how people choose charity brands
Seamus will talk about the psychology behind how people choose charity brands and how marketers can influence choice. He will explore System 1 thinking, outlining how people make decisions and what emotional triggers are fundamental to human behaviour. Through a range of cross-sector examples he will demonstrate how charities can use these behavioural insights to build their brands.
Seamus O'Farrell, director of planning
and strategy, System1 Research
11.00 - 11.10 Peer exchange
11.10 - 11.40 Refreshment break and advice surgeries
11.40 - 12.35 Breakout one: workshops (repeated at 13.25)

1a. Storytelling for change
Everyone loves a good story. But few people realise that stories invisibly govern our lives and the lives of our audiences. Stories are the operating system of society, and they can be hacked. In this session, we'll look at the role stories play as modern mythologies - the explanations of the invisible forces that make the world as it is. We'll look at the possibility of cracking them open, and replacing them with better stories. We'll do an interactive exercise in how to parse a campaign into story elements and be aware of the role our organisation plays: the archetype you fill, the gift you give, the monster you want to slay, and the call to adventure that you make to your audience.
Brian Fitzgerald, director and
chief treehugger, Dancing Fox

This session is aimed at communicators, fundraisers, and strategists who want to look beyond traditional campaign approaches to changing behaviour and reshaping mainstream culture.


1b. How to activate the right emotions in your campaigns
Understanding what emotions are evoked in a campaign or message can mean the difference between success and failure. Once you are over the hurdle of attracting someone’s attention, every charity needs to make sure that the individual will take action as a result. Our research will help you understand how to activate (and de-activate) your supporters so they give, volunteer or shout about your cause.
Michele Madden, managing director,

Secil Muderrisoglu, senior researcher,

This session is for those who would like to explore the emotions evoked by charity brands and campaigns and which ones lead to action.

  1c. Persuasive language: writing words that work           
This session will give you cutting-edge insights into how to grab attention, create empathy and impel action with words. We’ll cover some key principles of persuasive language drawn from cognitive and psychological science and we’ll look at how to use these tips and tricks for maximal effect in different kinds of copy, from email subject lines to campaign newsletters. You’ll come away with a better understanding of why wording matters and the skills to create the effects you want.
Dr. Andrea Macrae, senior lecturer in stylistics
and subject co-ordinator for English Literature,
Oxford Brookes University

This session will be particularly useful for people with some experience of copywriting who are looking to develop their skills and discover useful and adaptable take-away techniques.
  1d. Changing attitudes, changing behaviour – how do they connect?
For three years a partnership of charities, government and academics have been tracking how public perceptions effect engagement with global poverty. Providing insights from this research, we’ll explore the relationship between perception, attitude and behaviour looking at how you can increase engagement with your charity. During this session, there will be an opportunity to workshop the communications implications of these insights – come armed with your own challenges to tackle.
Professor David Hudson, research fellow in Politics
and Development, Birmingham University

Will Tucker, director,
Will Tucker Consulting

This session would suit directors and managers working across communications, marketing, fundraising and campaigns who are interested in the connection between awareness, perceptions and behaviour.
12.35 - 13.25

Lunch and advice surgeries

Lunch is included - you'll have a choice of three hot meals (one meat and two vegetarian options) plus a salad bar and desserts.

13.25 - 14.20 Breakout two: workshops (11.40 workshops repeated)
14.25 - 15.10 Breakout three
  3a. Understanding the barriers so you can break them down
Join Abigail for lessons from two of CRUK's high impact social marketing campaigns designed to change the behaviour of two distinct groups of people. Abi will outline how CRUK used audience insight to develop Own Your Tone - a campaign designed to encourage young people to embrace and own their natural skin tone and protect it from UV. Her second case study will explore how they developed a successful bowel screening campaign aimed at older people. Abigail will explain how audience insight helped them build the campaigns - from forming influential partnerships to making sure they put their resources into the right channels and tools.
Abigail Brown, head of health campaigns
and marketing, Cancer Research UK

This session will suit anyone interested in hearing about how insight-led marketing can help change health behaviour in two distinct audiences: an older 60+ audience and a younger 16 - 24 year old audience - encompassing a wide range of media formats.

3b. Using framing to build movements that win
Progressive campaigners have long been encouraged to use ‘framing’ as the basis for their persuasive efforts - crafting messages intended to activate the powerful metaphorical structures that govern how issues are viewed and engaged with by the public. In the wake of Trump and Brexit, it seems the most effective employment of these techniques comes from the political right, most obviously represented by themes like ‘Make America Great Again’ and ‘Take Back Control’. This session will explore why attempts to use framing for progressive causes are going wrong, and what we should do differently to enable framing to be the basis for the popular social movements we need in an age of fracturing and division.
Beth Gardiner-Smith, community organiser, 
Child Refugees at Citizens UK

Jana Mills, co-founder and creative director,
The Small Axe

This session is for campaigners who are interested in using emotive frames to communicate complex and challenging messages in a tough media environment.


3c. Human Centred Design: understanding the people you're trying to reach     
Understanding the gap between what people say and what they do is crucial to the success of your campaigns. In this interactive workshop Patrick will explore a framework for understanding what your audiences really think, feel, want and need and how these may help you to design more impactful campaigns.This session will be highly interactive and full of tools and tips that you can use straightaway to help address difficult problems in your work.
Patrick Olszowski, founder,
Outrageous Impact

This session is for people with an interest in human-centered design but does not presuppose any knowledge.

  3d. Using humour to highlight serious issues  
Multiple areas of the brain work together to help us process and appreciate jokes, from regions involved in language processing to the prefrontal cortex, which is related to the brain’s reward system. Although humour is not the first emotion that springs to mind when you think of some of the serious issues charities deal with – it can be a powerful tool for engaging and inspiring your audiences. Joe will explore the psychology of humour through Don’t Panic’s recent video campaign for Unison which aims to highlight the problems facing the caring community.
Joe Wade, founder,
Don't Panic London

This session is for people looking to improve their knowledge of how humour can be used to create shareable video content to highlight serious issues.
15.10 - 15.40 Refreshment break and advice surgeries
15.40 - 16.15 Breakout four

4a. How to break out of the echo chamber and engage centre-right audiences
Many campaigners and communicators consistently state that they struggle to have conversations with people of centre-right values. Our session offers key transferable recommendations for language to use and avoid based on core values and principles that centre-right audiences hold dear using the example of climate change.
Jamie Clarke, executive director,
Climate Outreach

This session is for charities looking to engage with people of centre-right values

  4b. Understanding behaviour change in context
Behaviours, from turning off the taps through to food choices, from wearing a seatbelt to smoking, take place in complex contexts - how can you make sense of the different influences on an individual's behaviour, and work out which ones you might have the power to affect? In this session, you’ll hear about the ISM model which allows you to explore the individual, social and material contexts for behaviour, and offers a powerful tool to help you expose new potential levers of influence.
Dr Fiona Spotswood, senior lecturer - marketing,
UWE Bristol

This session is for people interested in using the ISM model to explore the individual, social and material contexts for behaviour change.

4c. Applying Behavioural Science: evaluating the impact of your messages
The Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) applies insights from behavioural science with the overall aim of achieving positive social impact. BIT started life inside 10 Downing Street as the world’s first government institution dedicated to the application of behavioural sciences, and following a spin-out, is now co-owned by the Cabinet Office, Nesta, and BIT employees. In this session, Ashley will outline the work BIT has done on applying behavioural insights to public policy problems, often by focusing on making small but highly impactful changes to communications. Using examples from his work, he will demonstrate how to use a simple framework to effectively apply behavioural science to a hugely varied range of areas, and he will also discuss BIT's approach to generating evidence regarding what genuinely works for changing people's behaviour.
Ashley Perry, associate advisor,
The Behavioural Insights Team

This session is for anyone interested in how the Government uses behavioural science and how you can determine whether your communications have had the desired change in behaviour.

  4d. The psychology of irrational behaviour          
Looking at the RSPCA’s campaigning work to influence pet owners’ treatment of animals, this presentation will focus on the psychology of irrational behaviour. Justine will compare past campaigns (which used rational, common-sense messaging) to more recent and successful campaigns that embraced irrationality in order to influence behaviour more effectively.
Justine Williams, senior campaigns manager,

This session would suit people with a basic understanding of psychology who are looking to learn about what drives people to do - or not do - certain things, and how this applies in the context of communications.
16.20 - 16.45 When does persuasion become manipulation?
Persuasion is how we get people to do what we want them to do; to change behaviours, to make donations. But it’s a fine line between persuasion and manipulation, and crossing that line can damage your brand. So how do you keep your comms in check? In this session, Tom goes on an adventure into the murky world of micro-targeting to explore where the line should be drawn. 
Tom Tapper, co-founder,
Nice and Serious
16.45 - 16.50

Live Results! How do your values compare with that of the public?
A brief talk outlining the results of the value questionnaire that delegates filled out at the beginning of the day.
Michele Madden, managing director,

16.50 - 17.00 Peer Exchange
17.00 Conference ends