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No. 41 – Positioning for Public Acceptance

September 14, 2011

Positioning is the art of presenting your message in ways that the public will most likely hear, understand, and act upon. This means presenting or framing your message in a manner that will be favorably received. Skillful communicators know how to “position” themselves to gain the most visibility and recognition.

The process of “positioning” requires that you understand the perspectives of your audience as a basis for planning your strategy to gain favorable response. Health physicists do not always “position” their radiation risk messages very well for achieving the desired results.

Typically, health physicists will spend hours or days preparing the technical content of a message, but only minutes on a presentation strategy. They prefer to rely on the technical content to inform, persuade, or motivate. This approach may work fine, if you are dealing with a friendly audience of peers who understand your technology and are persuaded by logic. It may not work at all, however, if you are dealing with an unknown or unfriendly audience, especially if they do not understand radiation technology and jargon (which includes most everyone).

Technical people seem to have a naive belief that the truth of their technical message will prevail. But, even though the words are truthful, the public’s interpretation may still differ considerably from what you expect. Why? Because, you may be speaking in the “thinking” language while they are hearing in the “feeling” language, in the jargon of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Likewise, you may sound like the all knowing “parent” and they are feeling like the scared “child” in the language of ego states. Or, you are perceived as the representative of big business or big government, in the language of social roles.

All of these underlying factors are interacting behind every communication, even when you are not aware of them or take them into account. Whether you plan, or do not plan, every communication is acting out a positioning message.

If you do not purposely choose a positioning strategy, you automatically default to whatever the public sees as your position. This is why for public acceptance, you need to clarify your goals, understand your own communication style, understand the language preference of the public, understand the meaning of ego states (parent, adult, child) and understand the meaning of social roles. Does this sound too complicated? Stay tuned!

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