How can we authentically connect with ideas, businesses, brands and most importantly: each other? Speaking at the 2019 Social Media in Pharma event, Adam, co-founder and CEO of The Beautiful Truth, and Elizabeth, co-founder and Client Service Director of The Beautiful Truth, unpack the ways in which pharmaceutical companies might be going about communicating in the wrong way.
“Facts are facts. Stories are how we learn,” says Alan Webber, entrepreneur, author and politician. True connection and change happens only when our emotions are involved. To illustrate this, Adam takes two approaches to convey the landscape of child welfare in the USA.
In the USA in 2008, Healthcare spending was 15.4% GDP, number one in the world. In child wellbeing, however, it ranked number twelve, behind Greece, Poland and Czech Republic.
Yet it is stories, not statistics, that move us. Deamonte Driver was twelve years old when he died from a toothache. He was born into a working class family, who didn’t have the relevant health insurance to treat the infection. By the time Deamonte received care for his tooth, the bacteria from the abscess had spread to his brain. After two operations, the untreated tooth killed him.
‘Deamonte is a tragic story to me, one that brings tears to my eyes,’ says Congressman Elijah E. Cummings. ‘It was for Deamonte, and families like his, that I insisted on legislation in the Affordable Care Act to improve pediatric dentistry for those in underserved communities.’
Illuminating a complex interplay of cerebral processes – neural coupling, cortex activity, dopamine firing – Elizabeth explains how storytelling generates empathy and helps us remember things accurately.
‘This happened in the richest country in the world [America]. Not far from that country’s capital,’ Adam reports, ‘I guarantee when you go home, this will stay in your mind, the statistic won’t’.
Reconnecting with what makes us human
‘It is easy to forget that humans are at the heart of businesses’, Adam puts forward, ‘they are the ones that need to be engaged.’
Adam draws upon the philosophy of Daniel Pink to explain this. In his best-selling book, ‘Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us’, Pink calls for a critical rethinking of how companies operate, beginning with reconnecting with what motivates us as individuals: ‘(1) Autonomy – the desire to direct our own lives; (2) Mastery – the urge to get better and better at something that matters; and (3) Purpose – the yearning to do what we do in service of something larger than ourselves.’
Shifting away from the depersonalised vocabulary of profit – ‘efficiency’ ‘advantage’ ‘vale’ – and tuning into genuine human values – ‘truth’, ‘love’ and ‘honour’ – has, in Pink’s words, ‘the potential to rejuvenate our businesses and remake our world’, empowering individuals with the sense that they are ‘doing something that matters, doing it well, and doing it in the service of a cause larger than ourselves’.
Purpose Beyond Profit
How do we find and communicate purpose? Sharing the latest series of films they produced for Alzheimer’s Research UK (which went live on Tuesday12th November 2019), Elizabeth and Adam demonstrate the importance of finding the ‘higher cause’ for which individuals are fighting.
In showing why not just what the doctors and consultants are doing, we become more emotionally engaged – with the individuals and the cause for which they are fighting.
Drawing from psychologist and education expert, Howard Gardner, Elizabeth explains how stories provide us with lessons about how to behave, showing us what it means to be courageous, to overcome challenges and to build a better society.
She emphasises the importance of awe in effective storytelling. Whilst tabloids run on generating negative psychological responses like anger, anxiety and disgust, The Beautiful Truth seeks to create positive responses such as excitement, amusement and pride.
Adam reflects on the way such this inspirational quality is achieved in the video, created partially through the soundtrack. ‘There’s an urgency, a sense we can get somewhere,’ he expounds, ‘emotion doesn’t have to be about the sadness of something, it can be about the passion and the drive’.
If a brand or business can connect to and communicate this higher universal or human cause magic starts to happen. Not everyone and every brand can get there, but it is what we search for as human beings.