Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) in communications, PR and marketing

06/12/2024   •   Profession news
Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) in communications, PR and marketing

Why do some messages get results, while others go unnoticed?

It all boils down to how people think, observe the world and interpret messages — according to proponents of the NLP approach.

This blog post dives into the world of NLP, exploring some of its core principles and how you can use them to craft better communication strategies.

NLP techniques can help you craft persuasive messages, speak your target audience's language, and build trust — and here's why.

What is NLP and how does it work?

Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) is a field that explores the interconnectedness of our mind, language and behaviour (habits).

Advocates of the NLP approach believe that through various techniques of perception, behavior and communication we can change our thoughts and actions. It was developed by Richard Bendler and John Grinder. They believed it was possible to identify certain thought patterns possessed by highly successful individuals and teach others to apply them.

The NLP approach is based on psychology and various psychotherapy directions, but it is not a substitute for psychotherapy. Nevertheless, NLP is very popular in the field of coaching, and one of the reasons for this is the versatility it provides in solving various problems that people face.

In addition to being used in therapy and coaching to solve personal problems, NLP techniques can also improve the way people (as well as companies) communicate — many NLP trainers focus on how we can communicate with others and gain their support, which means that NLP can easily become part of your marketing or PR strategy.

What can you learn from the NLP approach?

NLP is at the intersection of thought, communication and action, and your job is to communicate in a persuasive way so as to remove barriers in someone's thoughts and motivate them to take a specific action.

That's why NLP can help you understand your target group better and adapt the messages you send to their specific way of thinking. Below are some lessons you can learn from the NLP approach.

Framing your message is key

NLP puts a lot of focus on how a particular thought (in your case a text, post or advertisement) is framed and how this can further influence one's behaviour. When you take this into account you can use the NLP reframing technique to reframe certain narratives in your favor so that they resonate better with your target audience.

This is applied in marketing in various ways, and one of the examples is the language of "scarcity" or limited supply. If you talk about something by emphasizing imitations of quantity and time, you have successfully applied a framework that motivates action quickly.

Likewise, there is a difference between positive and negative framing — getting 10% more energy does not sound the same as avoiding wasting energy — and what kind of framing produces better results depends on the nature of the product or service, the industry, the target group, and many other factors.

What NLP can give you is a way to discover which framework suits your needs better. By using specific questions about the context of your message and communication strategy, you can better understand your target group and the way they think:

• does your target persona normally think negatively or positively?
• do they have limiting beliefs about the problems you are solving?
• do they see their problems as something that happens to them or something they can participate in by solving?

These and similar questions, as well as target group research, help build a mindset model, and you can use NLP to change that mindset or adapt to it in your communication messages.

You need to know exactly what matters to your audience

Have you ever been tasked with preparing a "creative" campaign, only to find out later that you and your client have completely different opinions on what creative means?

This happens because each of us attaches a different meaning and vision to the same words. If we all used language the same way, there would never be any misunderstandings.

That is why it is necessary to ask your target group what is important to them, but also what they exactly mean when they answer.

This is also called the meta-model technique. It's not enough for someone to tell you they value speed in work if you don't know exactly what a fast job is to them.

Do they expect to receive something immediately, same day or within 24 hours?

You would find this out by asking meta questions, such as “What exactly is speed for you?”. Precision questions like these can help you better understand and examine your audience, their habits, expectations and needs.

Language and vocabulary should be adapted to your audience

Every PR or marketing professional knows that language and words are essential in creating any message. However, in the NLP approach enormous importance is attached to the specific words we choose to use: as with framing, it is necessary to adapt your vocabulary depending on the connotations and associations your target group has.

Using evocative, emotionally charged language in communications is standard practice, and NLP can help you determine exactly which words resonate most with your target persona. Ask yourself:

• are there any negative associations in the minds of the target group for the words we use most often?
• is the language we use often encountered in other contexts?
• which synonyms of a word cause more positive or negative reactions in people?

Communicate like your target group

NLP advocates the idea that trust can be gained through the "mirror" technique, i.e. mirroring. This is most often used in the context of non-verbal communication, but what if you could similarly communicate with your target group as they communicate with you?

This is called symmetrical communication in NLP. Given that communication through the media is asymmetric in its nature, the application of such principles to get closer to the target group can reduce the distance that initially exists between organizations and customers.

In order to become a mirror of your customers, in your materials you use representatives and methods of communication that are closer to them and their habits. Try to answer the following questions:

• what kind of attitude and body language do people appertaining your target group usually have?
• what words and explanations do they use when talking about their problem? what way of speaking is closest to theirs?
• what is their favourite style of humour (if appropriate)?

It is clear that if your target group is a younger generation that actively uses social networks, it is useful to include relevant references or emoticons in communication, while on the other hand, a professional audience may respond better to a more formal tone and professional jargon.

The essence of symmetrical communication is to bridge the gap and create a sense of understanding and togetherness with your target group.

Is it worth using NLP?

NLP is not a magic wand, but it offers a powerful set of tools for understanding how people process information and make decisions. Many established methods and techniques in marketing, advertising and PR already rely on ideas similar to those advocated by NLP, which means that NLP can only help you apply them.