Here’s why I’ve concluded that relying on messages alone is a mistake if we’re trying to change the world. 

Think about it this way: 

1) All change is really behaviour change (= people doing things they’re not doing now, whether they’re a parent, a farmer, or a CEO).

2) Behaviour change depends primarily on two things: 

• People wanting to change = feeling “yes, that’s who I want to be” …also called “intrinsic motivation”; 


• People feeling they can manage their risks = feeling “yes, I can do this without looking stupid or losing control of my life/business/reputation …also called “self-efficacy”.

Now, already, it should be obvious why messages by themselves can’t cut it. Messages can’t redesign actions to make them do-able. They can’t change systems. They can’t create relationships. And, of course, they can’t change people’s identities, the source of their intrinsic motivations.

There are two exceptions (I hear you say). Yes:

• messages that depict HOW to do the action, demystifying the task; and

• messages that show lots of similar people looking happy doing it.

Those communications can certainly help greatly.

But keep in mind that real sustained change will always be system change, including human systems.

However we still need to communicate! So, with those provisos in mind:

When change is the goal, are there rules for message-making?

Here is a 2-page guide that captures everything I’ve ever learnt about communicating for behaviour change. 

It’s pre-reading for an online workshop I’m about to run.

How you enjoy it and please spread it widely.

Best regards

– Les