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alPHa Winter Symposium, February 20-21, 2014
Welcome by Mary
Johnson, alPHa President
alPHa President Mary Johnson welcomed delegates to alPHa’s 2014
Winter Symposium – Public Health Challenges and the Science of Persuasion,
the aim of which was to develop a deeper understanding of how to be
persuasive when communicating about public health issues.
In public health we know the importance of influencing the
beliefs and behaviours of individuals, community leaders, and government
policy-makers. This has had mixed results in recent years, with notable
difficulties in persuading communities about the health benefits of community
water fluoridation or wind turbines. Each would be used as a starting point
for learning new communications tactics and strategies, with more information
about the types of audiences that need to be persuaded.
She then welcomed facilitator Scott Campbell, who is the founder
and CEO of Personalities At Work, a Toronto-based leadership development
firm. His client list includes such notable organizations as Nike, GE, IBM,
Pepsi, Proctor & Gamble, Kraft, Johnson & Johnson, Sun Life
Financial, and Sanofi Pasteur. In addition to his corporate clients, Scott
has extensive experience in consulting with both US and Canadian governmental
agencies and NGOs.
In addition to more than 25 years of management and leadership
experience in both the corporate and non-profit sectors, Scott possesses a
Master’s degree in organizational leadership, as well as a certificate in
Strategic Decision Making and Risk Management from Stanford University.
and Persuasive Messages That Reach All Types
Learning Session 1
During this interactive keynote session, guest speaker and
facilitator Scott Campbell gave an overview of the core elements of
persuasive messaging, which are based on well-researched principles and
practices that account for the myriad factors in decision dynamics.
Ultimately, persuasion is the art and science of using the proper tools to
influence those dynamics, and recognizing that they may be different
depending on the characteristics of the audience and the content message.
He asked delegates to think about an instance when we changed
our minds about something, and then to think about what it was that was
persuaded us to do so. This would be a starting point for thinking about how
we in turn effectively persuade different types of individuals on different
subjects. He then emphasized that while data and logic are important, many
personal and societal factors also need to be addressed.
He continued by pointing out two major mistakes that people
often make when crafting a message:
1) We use arguments that WE find
2) We overestimate the power of
logic and rationality.
He used several examples to illustrate the critical role of
emotions and external environmental factors (such as music, time of day,
frame of mind, others in the surroundings) in decision-making processes. This
is further complicated by two types of mental processes that we use of
depending on the situation.
System 1 processes are unconscious, automatic, quick, intuitive,
System 2 processes are conscious,
laborious, slow, rational, and they require a degree of suppression of System
It is tough to determine which of these is going to be in play
at any given time, so attention needs to be paid to both, especially the
pitfalls of System 1 if one ignores the emotional dimensions of the
decision-making process. This is what makes stories, imagery and attention to
language so powerful. He told of how
his own beliefs around capital punishment changed after seeing a film, and
then pointed to the imagery in his slide deck as an example of how it
enhances what he is saying rather than summarizes it in point form. He then made the distinction between visual
and mental images as he pointed out the importance of ensuring that messages
resonate with the audience rather than the presenter.
Exercise: Members were instructed to open
the envelopes on their tables and read the card within. The cards presented
an outbreak situation and two options for addressing it. He asked those who
had chosen Option A to stand followed by those who had chosen Option B.
Curiously, the room was visibly divided, with the east side overwhelmingly
choosing A and the west overwhelmingly choosing B, even though the options
had essentially the same outcomes. The difference was in the wording - you can read what was on the cards here.
He then introduced and outlined the Six Principles of Persuasive Messaging:
From Their World to Their World (know your audience)
to both the Heart and the Head (be aware of System 1 and 2 processes and the
emotional tone of words)
Outcome as Losses, Not Gains (losses are seen as threats. As such, they have
more power and influence over decisions)
Your Audience’s Freedoms and Autonomy (threats to these invariably cause
psychological reactance, which is difficult to overcome)
Social Proof (related to the first principle – be aware of the tendency to
determine beliefs based on what others in a similar cohort believe)
consistency (behaviours are likely to flow from active, public and voluntary
statements of belief or intent).
Prior to the
break, Scott responded to a question about the intransigence of those who are
firmly convinced. His advice was to concentrate persuasion efforts on those
who are on the fence, but noted that the power of testimony from peer groups
(e.g. someone who was previously firmly convinced but has since changed his
or her mind) is also significant.
THE VIDEO OF THIS LEARNING SESSION IS AVAILABLE FOR YOUR VIEWING PLEASURE IN ITS ENTIRETY. Due to file size restrictions, it has been compressed to the lowest possible resolution and divided into 10 parts. Please be patient, as the files are still quite large.
Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 /Part 4 /Part 5 / Part 6 / Part 7 / Part 8 / Part 9 /Part 10
Practice Session 1
Each table group was given the opportunity to apply the
principles of persuasion to the two issues mentioned in the introductory
session: community water fluoridation and industrial wind turbines.
Water Fluoridation – Persuading Municipal Council to keep or add
Fluoride to the drinking water supply.
The groups were instructed to use the Six Principles to craft a
persuasive message (which could be delivered in less than two minutes) for a
designated target audience (in this case Municipal Council), and record the
elements on flipcharts. Once this was completed, the groups rotated around
the room to examine each others’ results and discuss the strengths and
weaknesses of each. Finally, they were asked to return to their tables and
make changes to their own messages based on additional insights gained from
During the ensuing discussion, it was observed that almost all
of the presentations had some kind of imagery involving happy/sad faces with nice
teeth / bad teeth. Scott pointed out that this can be a very effective
strategy, but must be approached with caution, as it is difficult to predict
the nature of the emotional impact. Some may not be effective because they
have become cliché, while others may stray too far into the manipulation side
It was also noted that it can be difficult to step outside of
our own language and often obvious to an audience when we do. Scott agreed,
advising that any messaging strategy should include an audience analysis,
including using focus groups to test out language to see what resonates. This
is the best way to avoid the trap of making assumptions about what will and
won’t work. As an aside, he raised the notion of authority and how
hierarchical relationships can impact the emotional dimensions of decision
Responding to a question about the use of analogies (e.g. drawing
parallels between public transit and water fluoridation, which are both
public goods with reasonable (if more expensive) options), Scott cautioned
that one must be very sure that the audience is in fact solidly supportive of
the analogue, otherwise the analogy itself may backfire.
2. Industrial Wind Turbines
In this practice round, participants were asked to work
individually on messages designed to persuade parents who are concerned about
the potential health impacts of wind turbines (presumably on their children).
These parents have no vested interest outside of growing concern. How do we
persuade them that the advent of wind turbines is in fact a benefit?
Delegates were given 7 minutes to tailor their own messages, following which
they were asked to discuss them in groups of three. Following this
discussion, each participant was asked to tweak their message based on the
feedback they received.
To close the morning session, Scott provided recommendations for
further reading for those who wished to look in more detail at some of the
ideas covered above.
Cialdini – Influence: Science and Practice
Kahneman – Thinking Fast and Slow (regarding the two mental process
Scott Campbell – Mind Games
Learning Session 2
After lunch, Scott turned the focus from understanding
persuasion from the perspective of the message and how it is delivered to one
of understanding how the characteristics of the four broad types of audiences
affect how a message is received.
To start, he asked delegates to jot down their own top-of-mind characteristics
under four headings - Joys & Values, Strengths & Talents,
Frustrations & Stressors, and Ideal Work Environment. These would be
recalled following information that he would subsequently present about core
temperaments and how they fit under one of four "personality types”.
His main thesis here is that temperament is an important
foundation for motivational orientation, which is what affects an
individual’s ability and willingness to process messages that are or are not
aligned with their own beliefs. Knowing how to identify four basic
temperaments and their characteristics can be an important factor in deciding
how to communicate.
The Workbook outlines these four temperaments in a fair amount
of detail starting on Page 17.
Practice Session 2
Delegates were asked to
customize persuasive messages to the four types of audiences, paying
attention to the core values and key words that will vary among them, while
still drawing upon the general persuasion principles discussed in the
morning. Working in the same small groups as they did for the practices
session about water fluoridation, they were asked to rework their water
fluoridation message for each of the four temperaments.
To close the afternoon, Scott invited members to subscribe to
his Strategic Decision Making Monthly blog at
alPHa President Mary Johnson
welcomed members to Day 2 of the symposium, and provided updates on the June
2014 alPHa-AOHC Joint Conference and the alPHa Strategic Plan. She also
indicated that we are interested in holding the 2015 alPHa Annual Conference
outside of Toronto, and invited members to consider their public health units
as potential hosts.
alPHa will be hosting its 2014 AGM as part of a joint event - Prevent More to Treat Less - being planned with the
Association of Ontario Health Centres. She gave an overview of what the
program will entail, focusing on the relationship between public health and
primary care. This meeting will run June 3 – 5, with the first day set aside
for the alPHa’s Section meetings.
She then turned to the alPHa Strategic Plan, which is a two-year
plan aimed at increasing alPHa’s focus on its members through support,
promotion, representation, connections and development of leadership,
management and governance skills. alPHa’s focus on public health issues will
prioritize systemic ones, most notably those related to provincial policy and
those that have broad impact on its members from a structural, financial or
operational point of view. The intent
is to ensure that alPHa’s resources are devoted to maximizing service and
value to its members.
Promotion Division Updates
Healthy Kids Community
Kate Manson-Smith joined that
meeting to give further details on the Healthy Kids Community Challenge, which
is based on the EPODE model (as recommended in the Healthy Kids Strategy report), and they are in fact working on
the methodology with the existing EPODE network. This is the first foothold
in North America for that program, and the approach will be to focus on healthy
kids rather than healthy weights to avoid the pitfalls of bias and stigma.
She then outlined the potential role of health units and gave an
overview of how the funding grant decisions will be made. The hard deadline
for applications for HKCC funding is March 14, and the selected communities
will be announced soon after that, with the expectation that programs will
launch almost immediately. The HPD will be providing coordination and
support, and inquiries can be e-mailed to email@example.com
There is also a dedicated Web page for the HKCC, which is seeing plenty of activity.
Based on the numerous downloads of information and applications from the site
since it went live, it is assumed that there is a great deal of interest in
the program, which bodes well for its future success.
Responding to a question about evaluation, she reported that a
team of childhood obesity, development and mental health experts is being
assembled by Heather Manson at PHO to develop a clear set of indicators for
the Healthy Kids Strategy as a whole and the Healthy Kids Community Challenge
Another question was raised about the rationale for streaming
funding through municipalities, which has created some coordination
challenges where municipalities are numerous and interest is high. The answer
lies in the desire to closely replicate the EPODE methodology, which has
achieved demonstrable results. The importance of local political leadership
is a key component of the approach, and the focus at the outset will be to involve
municipalities that are initially keen rather than expending energy
convincing those who aren’t. The model is also based on the idea that there
will be a Local Champion (in EPODE, it’s usually a Mayor or lead Councilman).
A final question was asked about the Health Equity dimension of
this. Kate Manson-Smith acknowledged that social marketing initiatives can
have a disparate impact on various communities, and she will bring this question
back to the team regarding the potential use the Health Equity Impact
Assessment tools. It was also clarified that some of this will be addressed
by the application /selection process itself, as needs assessments at the
community level are going to be closely examined alongside the adherence to
the themes and the project design.
Kate than provided brief updates on the status of three pieces
of public health-related legislation:
Skin Cancer Prevention Act (Bill 30)
The Act was passed in the Fall, and regulations are due this spring. More engagement is expected to discuss public
health roles and funding for implementation.
Youth Smoking Prevention Act (Bill
This Bill is in Second Reading. If passed, it would amend the
Smoke Free Ontario Act to prohibit the sale of promotional items together with tobacco products, ban the
sale of flavoured tobacco products, expand the list of places that an
inspector is specifically empowered to enter and make adjustments to the
Making Healthier Choices Act (Bill 162)
This is the Bill that delivers on the pledge to require the
provision of nutritional information on the menus at large chain restaurants.
The 2014 Winter Symposium concluded with the traditional Section
meetings. Materials related to these meetings will be distributed in the usual manner to members of the COMOH and Boards of Health Section members.
Posted here are archived files from alPHa's past conferences, including fall and winter semi-annual meetings, our Annual Conference, as well as special-purpose and events that we have held in partnership with other organizations. In most cases, these are downloadable .pdf files that include summaries and presentations or links to external Web sites.