Awareness to Action in 4 Steps
By Christina Drouin
Most would agree that the task of leading people from lack of awareness to action is a huge undertaking. Implementing a communications system, based on the principles of the communications continuum, can be an enormous assist. Using this system, a communications office can advance the work of the school in achieving a desired action – from an increase in enrollment applications to breaking into a new market to changing how the school is perceived in the community.
The system rests on the foundational truth that attitudes and beliefs cause action. Success in achieving an action the school desires is inextricably tied to how successfully beliefs and attitudes have been formed to predispose a constituent or constituency to act. Actions caused by beliefs and attitudes occur based on information that people
- Understand, and
- Become convinced of
This process of moving people from awareness to action is called the communications continuum.
Applied understanding of the power of the communications continuum to move people from awareness to action is used in the for-profit world every minute of every day to bring consumers to desired purchase or lifestyle decisions. Based on a 30-second spot on TV, for example, Mr. Wilson may hear about a new product, or learn about a new health risk. Later that week, he may read an ad for the new product in a favorite magazine, or spot a full-length story about the newly discovered health risk in a trusted news source. Next, a friend buys the new product, likes it and tells Mr. Wilson about it; or a neighbor who has tried the new health advice, feels better and testifies to its effectiveness.
I know. I understand. I believe. I do.
Each of these steps benchmarks a phase of the communications continuum designed to bring about a desired action through the use of specific communications tools, from general advertising to testimonial and endorsement. We know that people don’t just do what we want them to do because we want them to do it!
First I must know. Then I must understand. Finally, I must also believe, in order for me to do. In our given example, the likelihood of Mr. Wilson taking the desired action (buying the product or changing an unhealthy habit) is increased because he has moved through each of these communications continuum steps.
In the case of a school whose desired action may be to establish a new identity in the community, each step in the communications continuum – i.e. awareness, comprehension and conviction – leading up to the desired action, attitude or behavior (in this case a changed in perceived image) has at its disposal a myriad of tools, from mass media advertising to group meetings, from personal email to one-on-one conversation. In a planned communications system, tools are appropriately matched with the task based on where people are on the continuum.
A savvy communications office unleashes the power of the communications continuum and 1) Identifies primary markets; 2) Targets market segments within those markets; 3) Seeks to understand their existing needs, perceptions and how they like to receive information; and 4) Designs marketing programs that deliver messages designed to create awareness, understanding, conviction and action.