A Heuristic for Values Narratives

I’m often asked about speaking to ‘mixed audiences’ drawn from different Maslow Groups, that is the Settlers (Security Driven), Prospectors (Outer Directed) and the Pioneers (Inner Directed).  The advice is usually the same: (a) Segment if you can – and it is much easier to do than people imagine, for example by choosing the right venues, messengers, contexts and channels; (b) if you can’t segment then you can hit a ‘hot button’ for each group in turn, for example “this makes us safe” (Settler), “it will make us successful” (Prospector), and “its ethically the right thing to do” (Pioneer).

Those are not the only ‘hot buttons’; there are dozens more mapped out in the CDSM values system, for example it’s right because it’s following tradition/rules (Settler), it’s fun (Prospector) and it’s people finding their own way (Pioneer).  So  you can do this, for instance in a speech or proposition.  If the audience is ready to agree with you, they will pick their point to agree with you on.   Here’s a slide of some possible narrative elements.

values narrative requirements

The trouble comes when there is a response which others can see or hear.  So if you are in a public forum and person A responds by saying “let me see if I hear you right – you are saying we should support a drugs policy which keeps people out of jail and in treatment because it’s ethically right – I agree with that – but wouldn’t it also be better if we allowed them to decide what risks to take in the first place, after all, it’s their life and as adults they should make their own decisions ?” (a libertarian Pioneer view), then they have now added a ‘hot button’ that works for them but which the Settlers and some Prospectors will probably disagree with.  If you now agree with it, you are ‘going against’ the Settler/Prospector values.  If you disagree with it, you appear to go against the values of Pioneers.

You can try ‘bridging’ away from it using A B C.  For example  “that’s a point of view some people have” [Acknowledge],  “but what we are focused on here today is” [Bridge],  “[whatever your Communications point is]”.   That can work in media interviews because the media default is to move onto the next question but that’s not how normal conversations work.   So if possible, it’s better to get into one-one or ‘segmented’ conversations as soon as possible.

As a ‘heuristic’ it’s probably safest to apply a rule-of-thumb of prioritizing SD> OD> ID or Settler> Prospector> Pioneer, in constructing any communication to a wide or mixed audience.  This is especially the case in circumstances where people’s front-of-mind priority is safety and security, either for themselves or on behalf of others.  The proposition making task then becomes, “how do I sell this in terms of safety and security ?”, and that may be all that its’ wise to do.  Meaning, if in doubt, go no further than Settler.  If a bit more confident, go to Settler and Prospector cues, and only if more confident, include Pioneer.  On many topics and in many European countries this has been the effect of economic recession – a lot of people are still adjusting to being and feeling poorer and less secure.

Depending on the structure of the communication, you might then be able to build in opt-in ‘options’ to show why your proposition will also make them more successful (for the Prospectors), and then why it also satisfies the wider or more different needs of the Pioneers.

In circumstances where there is a general background of media and social discussion of anxiety about needs which are always dominant for Settlers, that is, where other groups will be very aware that any ‘social’ solution needs to meet these, as in recession-shocked countries, any campaign proposition is likely to be ‘tested’ against these needs on feasibility grounds.  So then, even a Pioneer or Prospector who actually feels quite safe and secure themselves, may start ‘playing the Settler’ in evaluating your idea, because that fits the prevailing mood about ‘what people are concerned with’.  That’s another reason to show that you recognize this, and the importance, in its widest sense, of ‘safety-first’.  Otherwise the proxy-Settlers may see your proposition as naive and infeasible, and hence unattractive to engage with, if it’s clearly something to be launched to a wide public audience.  This particularly applies to propositions that you aim to have taken up by a third party, such as a politician.


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1 Response to A Heuristic for Values Narratives

  1. Pingback: Market Segmentation 101 for Change Agents | Cruxcatalyst: The Heart of Change

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