Old habits die hard. Have you ever tried to break a soda or sugar habit? It takes commitment and time, and not just from yourself, but the people around you. I have a sweet spot for candy and I can easily eat a whole family-size bag of Starbursts if I don’t actively watch what I’m doing.

Change is hard and requires dedication and focus. When we ask audiences to change behaviors, what are we asking them to give up?

Well, a lot. We’re asking them to rethink ideas and approaches that they’ve developed and practiced over the years. Habits and ideas that molded them into the people that they are now. So, asking them to question their processes and ideas feels like a personal attack and forces them to look within and reevaluate their foundational existence.

That sounds deep, well, because it is. Behavior change for social good creates an internal conflict that requires a lot of dialogue, reassurance, and consistent practice.

This image popped in my head as I was doing my research. I want to meet this person and listen to their journey. What started the process? Who helped them through the journey? And what was that trigger that untangled systemic thoughts and behaviors?

How do we help persons like them reach the conclusion and answers that look beyond just their own self-interest?

1. Recognize that you cannot be successful with everyone no matter how hard or long you try and that “everyone” isn’t an audience. It’s like throwing hopes and dreams into the universe and hoping they stick. Segment your audiences and define them with as many specifics as possible.

2. Now that you’ve done the hard part of segmenting and letting go of unnecessary audiences and baggage, you can move on to crafting messages that change perceptions. Based on your audience and their current beliefs and behaviors, this should become clearer.

3. Remember: If you understand and believe in the message, others will as well. However, use language that is clear and not easy to manipulate. Anti-abortion organizations won the messaging wars when they labeled themselves pro-life, leaving the other end with pro-choice, which can be construed as not favoring life. It’s a tricky mat when they took the upper hand and saturated the market by calling themselves pro-life.

4. There’s no easy fix. Continuing communication, observing behaviors, and adjusting messaging based on findings should be consistent until you reach your metric goals. Then, continue to saturate the market with information in order to move on to your next segment.

Ensuring that your work is aligned with your mission and values makes it feel less like work. The planning and defining and outlining steps are where the heavy lifting happens. And that’s why it’s imperative that you spend the time and effort to define and identify the foundational needs.

Asking audiences to reevaluate their thinking and reflect on past behaviors and ideals is not an easy pill to swallow. We’re asking them to pay the ultimate price: being vulnerable and open to growth for the betterment of the whole community as a whole, even if that means they get a smaller piece of the pie.