I’ve just returned from a More Than Words session arranged by our local child health team. It’s part of a programme created by the Hanen Centre – a charity, based in Toronto, whose mission is “providing the important people in a child’s life with the knowledge and training they need to help the child develop the best possible language, social and literacy skills”.
The More Than Words course teaches the parents and carers of children with communication difficulties strategies they can use in everyday life to encourage their child’s social development.
Like many training courses, it isn’t long before you realise that you’re not learning anything really new and most of what’s being said boils down to common sense. The big difference is that, from the outset, you’re being asked to honestly compare what you should be doing with what you are doing, and to actively think about how you can do little things better.
This morning’s session focussed on three areas:
- Working with the Child’s Own Agenda
Unsurprisingly, the session involved lots of role play. In one scenario, I played a parent sitting down with “my child” (a middle-aged man with an impressive beard) to do a jigsaw together. My child joined in for a couple of minutes but then, annoyingly, wandered off to find a biscuit. No matter how hard I worked, I couldn’t get my child to swap the biscuit for the jigsaw.
The learning from the exercise was to stick with the child’s agenda. It wasn’t about me and my jigsaw. The opportunity to create engagement started with the child’s actual behaviour – not some unattainable notion of desirable behaviour that suited me.
- Positive Reinforcement
This bit’s really obvious. If you want to maintain the child’s attention and engagement – make it fun. Again, not fun for you, but fun for the child – the audience. Observe what the child enjoys then embed their enjoyment in positive interactions.
The course leader’s parting statement was clear and unequivocal:
“If you leave here today with just one new strategy, it should be the value of repetition in reinforcing learning.”
So, I left with 3 new guidelines to encourage successful engagement and communication.
But, as I mentioned, these learnings aren’t really new. As practitioners of marketing, we should know all about effective communication.
Firstly, we should always be led by the customer- offering shoppers choices that meet their real, identified needs on a range of missions.
Secondly, always make it easy for you audience to engage.
Thirdly, don’t always think you have to reinvent the wheel. Repetition reinforces memory. By sticking with tried and trusted, well differentiated brand assets, your chances of being noticed, recognised and understood improve immensely.
Kids’ stuff really.