Psychology of communications – tools from the Behavioural Sciences

28 June 2018
09.30 - 17.00
CharityComms organisational and individual members: £175+vat
Corporate Partners: £220+vat
Small charity (income up to £1m) and freelancers: £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

etc.venues (Prospero House)
241 Borough High Street

This conference is now fully booked. To be added to the waiting list please email Sarah Cutress.

How can charity communicators leverage psychological insights coming from the Behavioural Sciences to improve their communications and influence behaviours?  

We’ll be building on last year’s sell-out psychology of communications conference – taking a deep dive into the very latest theories, tools and technologies used across the sectors to influence behaviours.

Refreshments and snacks will be provided during the breaks and there’ll be a two-course networking lunch.

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 – 10.10


Adeela Warley, CEO, CharityComms

10.10 – 10.50 Copy copy copy
Copying – using the brains and behaviour of other people – turns out to be a talent that has made homo sapiens extraordinarily successful: we always have access to other people’s knowledge and experience. But who should we copy and how? In this session, award-winning writer – Mark Earls, will draw a map of behaviour, informed by a huge range of decision science, and show how you can use it to shape your behaviour change approaches and improve your own decisions.
Mark Earls, pioneering and award-winning writer and consultant on marketing, communications and behaviour change
10.50 – 11.05 Peer exchange
11.05 – 11.30 Refreshments and advice surgeries
11.30 – 12.15 Breakout session one

1a. Insights from a behavioural scientist – the evolution of irrationality

Our behaviour is a consequence of how our brains process the world around us. This process has evolved over thousands of years. Thousands of years ago it helped us survive. Today it sometimes forces us into strange choices. For example, why does everybody know about global warming, but few change their behaviour accordingly? When people try to change behaviour, they often focus on using rational arguments. This often doesn’t work, because it misses the irrational cause of our behaviour. In this session, you’ll hear how irrational behaviour came to be, how to identify it in present day and how to influence it.

Mats Postema, behavioural scientist, Pennock & Postema

Suitable for: all budgets and seniority levels and for anyone interested in the psychology of irrational behaviour


1b. Combining behavioural research with user insight to design products that change behaviour

Wonder Words helps families talk, sing and play more with their babies and toddlers. It uses approaches from behavioural science plus an iterative design process to arrive at a set of ‘nudges’ through digital and physical products that make it easier for parents to support their child’s language development. Haidee will share insights about their behavioural design practice: what they have learned about combining behavioural research with user insight, how they have applied this to a rapid cycle development process, and the ambitions they have for a ‘movement for change’ to build upon their own innovation work.    

Haidee Bell, head of innovation, Save the Children

Suitable for: anyone interested in combining behavioural research with user insight to design products and services


1c.So what? Tips for making people care 

At the heart of every charity communications campaign is the need to make people genuinely care about your issue – and care enough to want to take action. We’ll explore the psychology behind the ‘care’ response – and how, as communicators, we can evoke a genuine reaction, whilst staying true to our ethics and brand. 

Jillian Griffiths, account director, Creative Concern

Suitable for: anyone responsible for planning creative charity campaigns, whether fundraising, brand building or awareness raising, which have clear calls to action. Suitable for all budgets


1d. Reading the psychological literature: what you need to know and what you can leave behind

The psychological literature on behaviour change can be impenetrable for those without an academic background. Using a jargon-busting approach, this session will introduce popular theories and outline what they have in common as well as why they matter for the charity sector. Zoe will provide insights into how psychologists develop and evaluate behaviour change campaigns and look at what the charity sector can learn from this as well as what can be left behind.

Zoe Williams, communications manager, Kidscape

Suitable for: relative newcomers to behaviour change campaigning

12.15 – 12.25 Movement time
12.25 – 13.10 Breakout session two

2a. The art and science of framing for social change

As campaigners and communicators we need stories that help people to think in different ways. And that don’t fall flat, backfire or cause harm. It’s framing that allows us to do this. Using insights from the FrameWorks’ latest research on attitudes to health, poverty, homelessness and children, Nicky and Tamsyn will explore how attitudes are formed. And how – with the art and science of framing – they can be changed.      

Nicky Hawkins, communications strategist and Tamsyn Hyatt, communications strategist, FrameWorks Institute

Suitable for: all budgets and for anyone working in communications with an interest in framing


2b. Lessons from sustainability communications – how to use imagery to achieve deeper impact

Many of us choose images every day for campaigns, reports, blogs, news articles etc – but what evidence do we base these decisions on? Poorly chosen images can at best be ineffective, and at worst counterproductive. This session will explore the psychology of climate change imagery. It will feature findings and practical guidance from the Climate Visuals research project which includes an evidence-based image library of over 550 images.

Léane de Laigue, head of communications, Climate Outreach

Suitable for: anyone using imagery in campaigns. Will be particularly relevant for people working in sustainability, but principles can be transferred to other areas too


2c. How to incorporate psychology into your comms strategy

In this practical session, Kate will explore how you can take a psychological approach to developing your comms strategy, helping you apply the latest insights from the behavioural sciences to your campaigns. She’ll share examples from her experience of the behaviour-change campaigns she’s worked on in the charity, government and commercial sectors, providing evidence-based inspiration, top tips and models you can use in your work – no matter what your budget, scope or desired behaviour change is. Have a look at her latest article on the elements of successful behaviour change

Kate Brennan-Rhodes, senior planner, 23red

Suitable for: all levels and budgets


2d. The psychology of storytelling

Stories aren’t just fun – they’re essential to what makes us human. The right story can shift attitudes, sell products and swing elections. By understanding the role storytelling has played in human evolution, we can learn how to identify and craft highly effective messages. This session will show you how, give you practical tips and include four, maybe five, good jokes.

Stephen Follows, creative director, Catsnake

Suitable for: anyone looking to improve their storytelling and for those who want to discover how they can use stories to motivate people to care, share and act

13.10 – 14.05

Lunch and advice surgeries

  • 13.45 – 14.00: Speed networking (optional)
14.05 – 14.50 Breakout session three

3a. Using behavioural science to save the Rhino

Exploring a range of failed and successful campaigns, Michaela will show how her charity is working with partners to reduce rhino poaching by influencing consumer demand for rhino horn. She will discuss why it’s important to understand your target audiences’ attitudes, behaviour and motivations, and what can happen if you get this wrong. Participants will learn more about the process of researching key audiences and how to use this information to frame communications messages and use the right channels to achieve behaviour change.

Michaela Butorova, fundraising officer, Save the Rhino International

Suitable for: those who are new to behavioural science and may be at a more junior level. Lessons will be transferable outside of the conservation sector


3b. Changing attitudes towards maths – how a small charity is busting our national phobia of numbers

How do you persuade people to do something they’re petrified of? It all starts with attitude. Find out how National Numeracy has been motivating people to overcome negative experiences with maths, develop self-belief and help them to build a growth mindset – the belief that anyone can learn and improve. Get ideas for incorporating messages into your communications, and find out how the charity is using growth mindset principles to improve cultural attitudes towards maths in the UK.

Rachel Malic, communications manager, National Numeracy

Suitable for: anyone responsible for implementing communications strategy, campaign planning, or breaking down barriers to engagement. Small to medium budget


3c. Using Nudge Theory to achieve a competitive edge with your UX

Nudge Theory is an established concept from behavioural science which proposes positive reinforcement and indirect suggestions as ways to influence the behaviour and decision making of people. In practice, it’s proven to be great for improving your UX. In this session, David will be evaluating why nudge theory is gaining such rapid popularity. He will also show examples of how ‘nudges’ have delivered considerable gains from low investment, and why they work. You will also learn how to identify valuable nudge opportunities and measure their impact.

David Somerville, strategy director, Fresh Egg

Suitable for: people interested in learning how applying a simple psychological concept can help them to improve the UX for their audiences


3d. Using social norms to influence behaviour

Social norms are informal understandings that govern the behaviour of groups of people – from the office crowd to wider society. In this session, David will offer a walk through the theory – the different types of norms, some ways in which we experience them in everyday life and how we can use them to influence behaviour. While examples of this theory in practice have often been confined to small-scale or niche projects, David will reveal his organisation’s experience of putting the theory into practice on a wider scale. He will give an honest appraisal, offering the lessons they’ve learnt, and pitfalls discovered.

David Hall, executive director, Behaviour Change

Suitable for: anyone interested in learning more about social norms for use in behaviour change campaigns. Will suit all budgets

14.50 – 15.00 Movement time
15.00 – 15.45 Breakout session four

4a. The importance of priming

In recent years much work has been done to show that how our decisions are made comes down not to logic, or even emotion, but to quick, automatic decision making at a subconscious level. This subconscious process can be heavily influenced by subtle verbal or visual cues, a phenomenon often referred to as priming. In this talk, we will explore this phenomenon and show that communications professionals need to take into account not just their target audience and the content of their messages, but just as importantly the context in which they appear. The talk will be illustrated with examples from nfpSynergy’s research of how context and subtle changes can affect how we think and feel about a range of subjects.

Bijal Rama, senior researcher and Tim Harrison, director of tracking research, nfpSynergy

Suitable for: all budgets and levels and for anyone wanting to better understand why and how context is important to how we think, feel and make decisions


4b. What makes people tick?          

In this 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 outline his infamous segmentation tool – Values Models – which divides the population by values based on the British Values Survey. Using examples from across the sectors, he will show how his model can be used to design policies, behaviour change strategies and social marketing campaigns. Pat spoke at last year’s conference and received hugely positive feedback – you wanted to hear more from him – so we invited him again this year.

Pat Dade, founding director, Cultural Dynamics Strategy and Marketing

Suitable for: all budgets and levels and for anyone wanting to better understand the use of values in behaviour change campaigns


4c. Improving your fundraising through behavioural economics

This interactive session will look at how to build some of the key principles behind behavioural economics into your supporter journey using real examples from charity fundraising – online and off-line. Dana will offer an introduction to key tools and frameworks illustrated with case studies and practical advice. The session will also direct participants towards appropriate parts of the new book by Bernard Ross and Omar Mahmoud on change for good using behavioural economics in social sector, the first book globally to address how to use people economics in a socially useful way.

Dana Segal, partner consultant, The Management Centre

Suitable for: individuals with an interest in how behavioural economics, decision architecture and neuroscience can be applied in the charity sector. Would suit all budgets and attendees at all career stages


4d. In Your Corner – influencing how we think and act about mental health

While there has been a positive step change in the way mental health is viewed and talked about in England, research shows a persistent gap between the attitudes of men and women, with men consistently showing less favourable attitudes. In this session, we’ll hear about ‘In Your Corner’ – a campaign aimed at encouraging men and young people to be more open and supportive of the 1 in 4 of us fighting a mental health problem in any given year. Lizz will share how Time to Change is using behaviour change models to influence how we think and act about mental health problems and you’ll get the chance to think about how you might apply this to your own work.

Lizz Brocklesby, head of social marketing, Time to Change

Suitable for: all budgets and levels and for anyone looking for inspiration for their next behaviour change campaign

15.45 – 16.10 Refreshments and advice surgeries
16.10 – 16.55

What’s chocolate got to do with charity?

What could charity communications possibly have in common with its commercial sibling? Surely very little? After all, the latter deals with people asking and demanding for a product or service, whereas the former involves invoking the feeling of giving in people. In this session, Shekhar will look at examples of how the commercial world may hold some inspiration for charity communicators. By viewing the world of charity communications with a people-centric lens, Shekhar will talk about what interesting perspectives we may gain, when we start viewing ‘givers’ as ‘buyers’.

Shekhar Deshpande, global planning director and strategy consulting director, J Walter Thompson

16.55 – 17.00 Close