You’ve had a great idea for a new event, campaign or communication. It’s going well until too many people get involved. Before you know it, your expert content has been watered down or, worse still, overloaded with inconsistent messages. Here are some behavioural insights you can use to convince your colleagues to back off, so you can get your content back on track.

  1. We’re inherently lazy.

We like actions to be quick and easy and we don’t like too many choices. This isn’t rocket science. But it is behavioural science. Studies show if you make a task more of an effort – even in small or seemingly irrelevant ways – people will put it off, or decide not to do it at all.

An example from the UK government’s Behavioural Insights Team relates to tax payments (stay with me, it’s useful stuff). They ran a test using two different web links in their letter copy. Some recipients were directed straight to the specific form they needed to fill in, others to a web page that included the form. Sending people directly to the form itself increased response rates from 19% to 23%. Not a mind-blowing increase, but a quick, simple and cost-free change you can learn from.

So, when you’re asking someone to take an action – donating, signing up to an event, or backing a campaign – make it as straightforward as possible. Don’t have too many options or multiple actions. And make sure your copy is split into clear and easy-to-follow steps. If you overwhelm or confuse people, even a little bit, you’ll lose their attention.

  1. The quicker we process or recall information, the more we believe it.

Behavioural science types refer to this as the ‘fluency heuristic’. (A heuristic is a mental shortcut.) If a concept is processed more ‘fluently’, smoothly or faster than another, our mind infers that it has the higher value. In other words, the more clearly an idea is communicated, the more likely it is to be considered seriously.

This backs up what my fellow copywriters and I bang on about whenever possible: keep your communications clear and straightforward. Stick to one idea per sentence. Don’t clutter copy with unnecessarily long words or too many adjectives. In general, verbs (doing words) are more powerful than adjectives and adverbs (describing words). Talk about impact. Show how people benefit from your service, for example, rather than just describing it.

  1. Mistakes make us suspicious.

Research by marketing agency Website Planet found that typos on a landing page increased the bounce rate by 85%. Yep, we mistrust anything with grammatical and spelling mistakes, and inconsistencies. If you want your readers to have confidence in your organisation, you have to do your proofreading. (I’ve asked three people to read this blog just to make sure you trust me. Yes, please @ me if you spot any typos…)

In an ideal world, we’d all have a team of eagle-eyed editors on hand to check every bit of our content. You don’t? Well if you can’t rope in a colleague, there are a few tricks to help you spot your own errors, like printing out your copy as it’s easier to proofread on paper. If you’re keen to save some trees and stick to the screen, try changing the colour and font of your document. When the text looks unfamiliar, typos stand out more. What you don’t see you’ll probably hear, so get your computer to read your copy out loud. On a Mac, you can set up you text to speech by going to ‘System preferences’ then ‘Accessibility’ and ‘Speech’.

If you need some help simplifying your content, please get in touch. I have more ideas to help with those pesky overcomplicating colleagues too.