By Amy Showalter
Do you ever wonder if your communications to elected officials and/or their staff are remembered?
Researchers at the University of Illinois have examined how “political and legislative elites” use heuristics to recall information presented by constituents. This research sought to find out what factors encourage legislative staff to use heuristics in recalling information from constituents.
Their findings are below. Please remember as you review this list that it relates to information recall only – it is only one part of the persuasion puzzle. (Of which my colleague Dr. Kelton Rhoads has determined there are not “6 easy principles” or “10 tips”, but rather about 100 tactics you can use depending on the situation and influence prospect. Successful influence is customized!)
- Frequently presented information is more easily recalled
- Familiarity of the issue as it relates to major constituent groups is more easily recalled.
- Issue salience. The more vivid the issue, the more it is, in the researcher’s words, “overvalued” by staff, which is why it’s more easily remembered.
- Pre-existing attitudes – Is the information being presented consistent with the staffer’s belief system? If so, staffers judge the information as more important and also “overvalue” it.
- Numbers matter – the numbers of constituents affected in each district makes staff more likely to recall information about an issue.
The human mind operates the same whether you are a lawmaker, legislative staffer, or grassroots influencer. People use heuristics to recall information, because it makes life easier. And busy, harried “legislative elites” probably resort to heuristics more than other professionals, simply because of the volume of information they filter.
The bottom line? Remember that your audience uses heuristics to recall information, which can impact decision making. If they can’t easily remember your information, you’ll have to spend more time and effort to be heard.
If you suspect your information isn’t being taken into consideration with “legislative elites,” engage in vivid communications (translation: proximity). Demonstrate that your organization is indeed a “major constituent group.” Communicate frequently. And, if possible, find a value match with your information and the person you are trying to persuade.
Amy Showalter is a national grassroots and PAC persuasion expert who works with organizations that want to increase their government relations effectiveness through the application of research-based best practices. Over 85% of her long-term consulting clients have experienced an increase in financial resources, staffing, and senior management recognition after collaborating with Amy.