My Brain is a Temple


Yielding to my curious side, I had the opportunity to flee the office for the afternoon, and attend Chinwag Psych. With my background in PR I had no clue what to expect from a pyschology conference, but soon enough I was up to my knees in knowledge; learning about how neuroscience, behavioural psychology and machine learning could revolutionise media, marketing and business.

In case you missed out, I’ve put together a couple of highlights from the sessions I sat in on:

Designing your Day

As Aristotle said, “Excellence is not an act, but a habit”. This talk looked at how, as professionals, we should challenge and change our habits in order to perform at our best and work smarter – without having to work harder or longer hours. Nokia and Brilliant Noise devised the ‘Design your day’ e-book to help encourage productivity. They spent months working in conjunction with Dr. David Rock, an expert in applying neuroscience to the workplace, to develop this.

So why should we be striving for excellence in the workplace? Well, with the brain using 20% of our blood glucose each day, thinking is expensive, and a key reason as to why – as PR professionals – we need to effectively plan our day. Antony Mayfield discussed the ‘three Ps’.

Firstly, purpose: you need to understand your purpose and what you want to achieve in order to be excellent. Secondly, prototyping: each day is a prototype, plot your day out and learn what works best for you, as well as noting activities that drain you. Lastly, prioritisation: we must all learn how to effectively prioritise our activities; we need to plan our energy as well as time as both are a finite resource.

Trend Predictions

In PR we need to stay ahead of the curve. Essentially that means understanding what trends our clients’ consumers are following, in order to inform strategy and deliver results; but how should we be doing this and what tools should we use? William Higham, founder of The Next Big Thing, outlined how important it is to look at the PEST factors – politics, economy, society and technology – in order to help understand the mind-set, attitudes and the directions in which people are heading.

If we aggregate this information, we can then start to look at what new drivers are influencing people, how these in turn change consumer attitudes and how these changes will influence future behaviours.

‘Show Me the Money’

The guys at Cambridge Personality Research (part of Cambridge University) discussed the importance of understanding individual's behaviour from basic online activity. The team ask people to answer scientific personality questionnaires; they then combine that with observations about their online behaviour (such as Facebook ‘Likes’), to indirectly find out what kind of person likes which kind of product.

With an database of over 6 million respondents it gives brands a strong platform to tap-into the brains of consumer groups. As PR consultants, we can use this to help predict audience behaviour to see what kind of customer the brands we work for are currently attracting, along with specific personality traits. This information can then be used to address the audience with a targeted strategy, to create loyalty, or even to poach customers.

Have a Day without Moaning

Is our personality our prison? More often than not we get locked into behaviours and habits which can be prohibitive to good work. The infectiously enthusuastic Prof. Karen Pine shouted about why we should be getting off the couch and ‘doing something different’. In order to unlock our freedom we need to change our behaviour through doing, not thinking, with the objective to become more flexible and agile in the workplace. But, this isn’t so easy when your brain is hooked on habit; the Do Something Different approach that Karen spoke about helps people change gradually, expanding their behavioural repertoire one step at a time.

The Science of Sharing: Video

You go on Facebook, you see that your friend has posted a video of goats singing like Taylor Swift, you share it with your friends. But why, what made you do that?

Cat Jones at Unruly Media walked us through the science of sharing: how the average video share rate is just 4% of all video views, an explanation of why videos go viral and how ¼ of all video shares happen within the first three days of posting. Cat primarily focussed on a tool they launched earlier this year, ShareRank; an algorithm trained on a data set of more than ten thousand points about video sharing, helping to identify which factors and social motivations push people to share.

Hilarity, happiness and warmth all scored highly as reasons for sharing – Cat showed the Three ‘Dance Pony Dance’ video to emphasise this. She stressed the algorithm registered and recognised both cognitive and primal responses, finding that in this case these triggers were the ones that drove people to click the ‘Like’ or retweet button. Cat highlighted that as PR consultants we can look at a client’s video characteristics and consequently use this information to help inform the distribution and sell-in strategy. Using the correct tools we can effectively tailor our approach to targeting media, based on what the video’s strengths are.

Come the end of the day, I left feeling positively overwhelmed with great ideas; my only regret was that I couldn’t attend the morning. Keep an eye on the Chinwag blog where there are plenty more updates and interviews being posted – or take a look at the presentations for yourself, here.

Parts of this blog were taken (with permission) from Nelson Bostock’s blog page

Photo (cc) of Benjamin Ellis