Communicate, Then Fascinate

By: Kristin Clarke

Author Sally Hogshead on how to influence members to act or live differently.

"Fascination is an intense emotional focus," writes bestselling author Sally Hogshead. "When customers are fascinated by you and your message, they're more likely to trust, believe, and respect you."

Hogshead began researching the "science of fascination" after seeing a news program that noted humans have a nine-second attention span, the same as a goldfish.

"If [that's true,] then this changes everything about how we communicate," she says. "We must find a way to communicate our highest value and captivate our listener."

Hogshead's research on 125,000 people in companies such as Intel and Cisco turned up seven "triggers"—ways that organizations can craft any message to fascinate and, therefore, influence individuals to act differently.

The "trust trigger," for instance, may appeal most to associations, but it's also "the most difficult trigger, because it's the easiest to lose and the most valuable to hold," says Hogshead. "When we look at how trust works in the brain, it's built around patterns, consistency. To create trust, organizations must build these patterns and expectations by not changing themselves radically, by always returning to the same values."

Rituals and traditions are important to organizations trying to build their fascination level through trust, she says, but she also warns of that trigger's downside—becoming predictable and boring.

Organizations can "become so focused on wanting to be trusted that they forget they also need to use innovation for creativity and change," she says. "They fall into a rut [and] become irrelevant or forgotten because something new has come along for their customer, so it's important to balance trust and innovation."

Contributed by Kristin Clarke, a business journalist and writer for ASAE. Email: [email protected]

Kristin Clarke

Kristin Clarke is books editor for Associations Now and a business journalist and sustainability director for ASAE.