In the Public, I: Consistency and Commitment in Written Statements
This was written for CAS 832: Strategic Message Development in the Michigan State University Strategic Communications MA program.
Consistency and commitment are powerful principles in human psychology. Cialdini (2014) states that individuals share a desire to appear consistent because society views this virtue as valuable. Consistency pairs closely with commitment: in the pursuit to appear consistent, people often commit to behaviors that adhere fiercely to an action or to an opinion. Cialdini (2014) highlights the power of public statements, arguing that commitments made publicly create self-fulfilling actions, rituals, and declarations. This pattern occurs because a social label of “inconsistent” becomes an indictment on character (Cialdini, 2014). Taking the concept of consistency and of commitment, the purpose of this paper is to re-write an advertisement for the Birdies for Health (BFH) charity golf event utilizing principles of consistency and of commitment and the power of the public statement.
The University of Wisconsin Health System (UW Health), an integrated health system at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is the main sponsor of BFH. Approximately 1500 physicians and 16,500 staff members provide patient care, research, education, and community services to more than 600,000 patients throughout the Upper Midwest (UW Health, n.d.). Partnering with the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, UW Health’s mission is to advance health without compromise (UW Health, n.d.).
Birdies for Health
BFH is a fundraising program supporting five causes through a pledge-per-birdie (a score of one-under-par) during the American Family Insurance Championship Golf Tournament (BFH, n.d.; National Club Golfer, 2010). Charity beneficiaries include the UW Department of Ophthalmology, the American Family Children’s Hospital, the UW Initiative to End Alzheimer’s, the UW Carbone Cancer Center, and the UW Health Transplant and UW Organ and Tissue Donation Center (American Family, n.d.). Over the last three years, BFH raised more than $4.7 million for 185 local charities (BFH, n.d.). The hashtag is #BirdiesForHealth.
From Discreet Donation to Public Pledge
One-on-one communications, like email, merely ask for action and provide general information; however, public goal-setting may stimulate a competitive nature among an audience (Cialdini, 2014; Taewoo et al., 2017). Cialdini (2014) explains that written statements conjure a psychological motivation that discourages participants from backing out of a contract. A public promise fuels consistency when statements are aimed at a public audience that can amplify or judge the message (Cialdini, 2014; Taewoo, Fowler, Franz, & Ridout, 2017). Society views “taking a stand” as admirable and trustworthy; by contrast, terms such as “fickle” and “uncertain” are social stains to be avoided (Cialdini, 2014). When highly visible, public commitments are reinforced by the “pillars of public commitment” (Cialdini, 2014, p. 84). Groups seeking solidarity and distinction are wise to create an “initiation” or bonding tactic that provides a valuable advantage (Cialdini, 2014). Public pledges employ “the effort extra,” because the more effort one takes to draft a statement, the more effort he or she will take to uphold it (Cialdini, 2014, p. 85).
Making a Statement with Birdies for Health
I added a new headline in this re-write: “Make a Statement” with a call-to-action prompting participants to make a personal statement. There are five organizations receiving donations; thus, participants can justify and explain why they chose their specific cause. People engage more with charitable causes that narrowly define a single, identifiable beneficiary (Sanders & Tamma, 2015). The “why statement” wields vast power and inevitably tells story, justifies an action, and explains a behavior (Legorburu & McColl 2014, loc. 1183). Sanders and
Tamma (2015) state that giving is a social act, and Cialdini (2014, p. 79) explains that there is something “magical” about writing things down. Making a public statement may validate the altruism and the goodwill associated with charitable giving—fostering a heightened sense of interdependence and of cooperation in a social community (Sanders & Tamma, 2015; Suttie & Marsh, 2010). A tweet may be a quick writing process, but people who spend time to attain something tend to value it more highly than those who expel minimum effort (Cialdini, 2014).
People give significantly more under the influence of friends and families (Sanders & Tamma, 2015). Donating is optional, but individuals accept inner responsibility when he or she perceives it was a choice (Cialdini, 2014). Public proclamations both announce a commitment (through goal-setting) and prompt others to donate (through cooperation and social connection) (Cialdini, 2014; Sanders & Tamma, 2015; Suttie & Marsh, 2010). From a strategic communications angle, UW Health and BFH could combine influence with search engine optimization if they create a website forum to display statement tweets. The inner choice tied to making a public statement can boost one’s self-image, affect future behaviors, cultivate a long-term association—and even make us healthier (Cialdini, 2014; Sanders & Tamma, 2015). Anyone can donate, but a donation accompanied by a public “why” statement tees up a hole-in-one of consistency and of commitment.
Consistency in a public forum can be monitored and judged, and the innate fear of inconsistency can reinforce decisive behaviors (Taewoo et al., 2017; Cialdini, 2014). Adding a statement call-to-action promotes a sense of trust and of cooperation and strengthens ties to the community through consistent, committed social interactions (Suttie & Marsh, 2010; Cialdini, 2014). Sanders and Tamma (2015) posit that “giving is contagious,” but one could argue that the same traction and tenacity results from anyone who commits to a statement in the public eye.
About us. (n.d.). UW Health. Retrieved from https://www.uwhealth.org/about-uwhealth/main/10730
Cialdini, R.B. (2006). Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. New York, NY: Harper Collins Business.
Legorburu, G., & McColl, D. (2014). Storyscaping: Stop Creating Ads, Start Creating Worlds. [Kindle version]. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley & Sons.
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National Club Golfer. (2010, January 1). NCG’s golf glossary: What’s is a birdie in golf? Retrieved from https://www.nationalclubgolfer.com/news/what-is-a-birdie-in-golf/
Sanders, M. & Tamma, F. (2015, March 23). The science behind why people give money to charity. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/voluntary-sector-network/2015/mar/23/the-science-behind-why-people-give-money-to-charity
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Take your swing on making a difference. (n.d.). Birdies for health. Retrieved from https://www.birdiesforhealth.org