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JoTo-Ism: The Importance of Using Emotion to Elicit Response in PR

JoTo-Ism: The Importance of Using Emotion to Elicit Response in PR

_large1.jpgDear KJ,

I may be suffering from an ethical dilemma and am seeking your help. I know how important it is to elicit  response from marketing and PR efforts. I mean why bother doing it if you are not getting a response. But some promotional efforts seem to go over the line in the emotions that they are provoking and cast a negative aspect on the product and or company. Here are my questions. Can you help me with this?

Signed: I walk the line

Dear I walk the line,

I hear what you are saying and will do my best to answer your questions. Am sure this will help.

  1. Should I use emotions to grab attention and why?

Well first of all, PR is not “promotion” as most people think of it. It is establishing a relationship so people believe you first, so you can then advertise and have them act on your promotion.  In a way it’s promotion, but you aren’t selling something at this point.

In PR you have to make an emotional impact for people to believe you.

There are all kinds of emotion. There is anger (an obvious emotion), and there is sentimentality (like exhilaration, grief, love, etc.), but believe it or not there’s other emotions like being ‘cautious’ or being ‘unconcerned’ or ‘beautiful sadness’.

So your answer is yes – you have to use emotion. And the key is to use the RIGHT emotion.  The reason is so that people will connect with you and be in a frame of mind to believe you. It just depends on who you are trying to make an emotional impact with.

This commercial uses emotion – different emotion to make an impact, but oh does it make an impact. Who do you think they are communicating to?

  1. Do positive emotions get you more respect and create more demand?

It depends. Sometimes it works really great. You can be uplifting and many people like to be inspired.

But say you have to get a message out about dangers of illegal pill mills in your hometown neighborhood that are making addicts out of your teens.  You don’t want to be uplifting, you want people to take action and the way you might do that is show people the truth emotionallyfor them to get aroused to do that. You have a neighborhood where unethical and illicit doctors are prescribing major narcotics to anyone for cash, making addicts out of your neighborhood children. Do you want to be uplifting there? I don’t think so.

What gets your respect is using the proper emotion for the people you are talking to.

Think of children – you don’t talk to kids in the same way you talk to adults – they would not understand you and you have to hit their viewpoint.  ‘Grown-up talk’ does not hit that mark all the time.  The SAME is true in PR – you have to tailor your communication AND the EMOTION that goes along with it to fit the people you are talking to.

This French educational commercial would get a totally different response here in the US – it’s pretty racy (no pun intended):

  1. What are the best emotions to use to garner publicity and create demand? Ones that you know will make an impact that will expand your business plan, not hinder it.

Here’s an example on the contrary: Calvin Klein used the emotion of ‘pornography’ (yes, SEX is an emotion – its emotional subject, isn’t it?) to appeal to their market. GROSS. They were banned.  This did NOT appeal to the public – WRONG emotion. EPIC FAIL in PR.

  1. How do I implement and emotion-based campaign into my PR efforts?

First you have to figure out what your purpose is for doing PR in the first place – and how does it fit into your overall business strategy?  You want people to feel a certain way so they buy a product, feel loyalty, know who you are, call on you if they need protected? Figure it out.

Let’s talk about protecting or being protected; it assumes that your message’s emotion might be ‘fear’. Gun control messages use fear. Drug control messages use fear.  But you have to be truthful and then give people a solution so they know what to DO.

Here is a campaign that uses fear – I am not saying that this is a correct campaign, but it may be for whom they are talking to and what they are trying to get them to do. Check out the impactful PSA below:

Healthcare wants people to feel safe, so their message is that of establishing all the credentials of their doctors, hospitals, surgeons, etc. Because of those creds, they’ve saved someone’s life – that’s the message. There is a mixture of being ‘traditional’ or ‘logical’ (degrees, certifications, etc.) and the sentimentality of ‘saving-someone’s- life’ type emotions in certain campaigns – you can have more than one in a message.  Most of the time you see this in campaigns geared to elderly people – maybe their market research says elderly people are fearful andsentimental.

Most healthcare shows facts – they don’t get too liberal and keep their news ‘mainstream’. They also use fear to keep things ‘status quo’.  That’s all emotion.  Except for elective healthcare – like Botox parties. These have the element of a FUN emotion added to  it, with some serious news aspects along with ‘controversy’ – because that stirs up/elicits emotion. See what I mean here:

Another powerful fear PR campaign is steering people to stay away from something so that they automatically are steered toward you.

You can portray emotion through all different mediums: headlines in print, billboards, social media, video and pictures. Anything that can affect the senses (sight, sound, smell, taste, etc.) you can use.

Restaurants and bakeries use PR by having exhaust systems where people can smell the food when they walk or drive by – or sample something by tasting it.  YES, that IS PR.

Perfect examples are the commercials for Mini Babybel cheeses featuring comedian Lauren Ashley Bishop. You know the ones I mean – Lauren is in the shopping mall or on the street handing out those little cheeses and engages the people in spontaneous dialog. Now when I go to the mall I always expect to see Lauren and get me some of that cheese.

PR is using senses with emotion to get people to think a certain way.

Music is another way to get emotion into something – which is why videos are so good.

  1. Is it okay to use negative emotions to penetrate the market and get known?

Yes. Food industry- Food Inc., the documentary, is all based on negative emotion to get people to buy organic food.  They really showed how badly the farmers are being suppressed and how the average American is unable to eat good healthy food inexpensively, so they resort to fast food and have tons of medical problems. They expose the truth about how chickens are raised, as well as beef, and what’s happening to animals through this process. The people that watch this report are becoming more aware and are now buying organic.

Another example is the animal shelter social media ads when they want you to donate money – they show animals that need help, have been abused or starved.  They also appeal to the cuteness of the animals – and yes, that is an emotion – it elicits one doesn’t it? humor and cuteness works great! See if I am not right…look:

  1. Do negative emotions always create negative feedback?

No. Look at the starving children ads – all the emaciated children are portrayed via a negative emotion (worry, sadness), but it makes you want to something good. The only time negative emotion is bad is when you are inciting people to do things that are bad, unethical or immoral. Like, if you want to promote that a certain drug as healthy, but you know the side effects cause erectile dysfunction, suicide, nausea, insomnia, dry mouth, hallucinations and a host of other side effects, yet you are conveying this drug through some positive emotion like some person got their life back – then that is bad.  Drug companies have gotten sued over and over for this. Don’t lie.

Don’t watch this is you cannot handle graphic depiction of human suffering – this is explicitly graphic:

  1. Is it unethical to use hate on your competition in order to gain popular support?

Generally yes. But there are times when you need to position yourself against your competition – you can do this if done right and with the right emotion. Humor works well in cases like Miracle Whip vs. Mayonnaise, Taco Bell Chick-fil-A and and other fast foods.


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