Why are we talking to students like they’re selfish?

Friday 06-11-2015 - 13:43

The psychological effect of our communications

Almost all students’ unions share a similar set of values. These are typically selfless in nature – promoting things like democracy, equality and collectivism. Yet so often, we speak to students as if they are more motivated by selfish values – trying to engage them through promises of financial reward, status, power and influence. Why do we do this? And is it the most effective way of motivating students to participate in our activities?

NUS conducted studies and found that most students, like students’ unions, have predominantly selfless values. But almost all students’ unions’ communications rely on appealing to more selfish values when trying to motivate students to take action on things like democracy, volunteering and welfare. This may not be engaging the greatest number of students possible. Or worse, using a mixture of competing values, risk engaging nobody.

This report illustrates the gap between our organisational values and the values we promote in our communications and assume as important to our members. Rethinking how we speak to students could increase their engagement with us and more effectively strengthen our values across society.

It’s time to:

  • Stop assuming that students are selfish
  • Use our organisation’s values as guiding principles for our communications
  • Seek to strengthen our values in our members and institution
  • Avoid creating confusing communications containing conflicting values
  • Use the term ‘we’ to reflect the relationship we want to have with our members
  • Use emotive metaphors with vivid images to get our message across
  • Frame the world as we see it and want to see it

Read our report - 'Why are we talking to students like they’re selfish?' - in full here


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