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Metanoia – a fundamental shift in how someone sees something

Author: Graham Smith


Metanoia – a fundamental shift is how someone sees something.  

At marketing school, back in the day, we were taught that changing attitudes is the hardest thing to achieve.  Attitudes are generally firmly entrenched and not given up lightly. A large part of marketing is devoted to developing strategies which change attitudes. 

I was reminded of this just this morning. In my Twitter feed there was a clip of former deputy prime minister Michael Heseltine explaining to Talk TV’s hosts that Brexit had failed. The hosts mounted a predictable defence but were no match for the so called ‘big beast’, so they waited until Heseltine had gone off air before bemoaning how wrong he was, only to be then cut down by studio guest Stanley Johnstone who told them that Heseltine had ‘wiped the floor’ with them.  

Cue a Twitter storm which lasted for all of half an hour before being knocked back by news of Nicola Sturgeon’s imminent resignation announcement.   

Heseltine, a seasoned performer clearly came off best here, but I suspect that neither side changed their attitudes towards Brexit one iota, but I did wonder if the piece had moved viewers at all. 

Quite possibly, I suspect, as Heseltine had new ‘evidence’ – a statement from a Bank of England official saying that people were £1000 worse off; plus he was also able to brandish coverage in The Telegraph which had previously supported leave but now seemed to be shifting its stance.  

So, bringing in some powerful examples of influential institutions and publications which had shifted their stance were effective moves by Heseltine. 

When we start with a new client we are rigorous in pinning down evidence to support any claims they may be making.  We often start programmes with a ‘messaging workshop’ designed to find out exactly what we need to get across in our comms. This often results in a stream of statements “We’re the best at X”, or “Really well known for our expertise in Y”.  

But then comes the hard bit. Proving these claims?  

Clients are often taken aback by these sessions which force than them to examine their messages and re-examine what they are saying. 

The second half of our workshops is dedicated to actually finding the evidence to support such claims, or devising a means to be able to underpin them. This may be through new research, through repurposing of existing stats, or through testimonials (case studies).  We look for people in the organisation who might have expertise in a particular area whose opinions we can tap into.  Another route is to look at what competitors are doing, what claims they are making and how they’re getting media traction with them – or not.  

This is where the PR then comes into its own – we take this evidence and turn it into stories and campaign ideas which are far more than sweeping statements and which ultimately can change attitudes. 

Our ‘Twelve word’ this month is metanoia – from the Greek μετάνοια, changing one’s mind. It’s also described as ‘similar to correction’. For our own comms purposes though, I prefer ‘clarification’. 

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