"Coronavirus is a threat, not because of what we've seen already, but because of the uncertainty around it. As of yet, we don't have a vaccine and don't have over-the-counter medications to fight it. Be vigilant. Wash your hands. If you're sick, stay home."
This is how I would suggest addressing the public around a threat like the Coronavirus.
Instead, this is how the World Health Organization did it this morning:
"Globally, about 3.4 percent of reported COVID-19 cases have died. By comparison, seasonal flu generally kills far fewer than 1 percent of those infected," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a press briefing.
Data is polarizing.
And when data is used wrong, it causes mistrust in the source, which then creates even more problems. I see it every day in sales efforts, and unfortunately today, I'm seeing it in the WHO and the media.
(as of 7:30am CT Wednesday, March 4th, 2020)
- Of all the reported deaths (3,213), almost 90% are from one province in China - the Hubei Province (2,871).
- When this blew up, Hubei was unprepared, overwhelmed, and didn't know what they were dealing with, so their death rate was considerably higher (4.3% - 2,871/67,332)
- In junior high we learned, when calculating averages, to remove the massive outlier - or use a "mean" instead.
- So, when you remove the outlier (Hubei), there have been 342 deaths out of 26,857 cases. which is 1.2%.
In other words, while still alarming and worth protecting against, the death rate is actually 1.2%...only slightly higher than the flu, and harder to catch than the flu.
So why is the World Health Organization or the media not presenting the data behind the data?
It's because they know necessity drives change, drives invention and drives behavior. We are driven to avoid fear.
However, once trust is eroded, it's a hole that's difficult to climb out of.
A better way? Trigger the crazy-maker in our brain - UNCERTAINTY. Unpredictability and uncertainty actually lower our IQ when we're deep in the unpredictable or uncertain environment. We are driven towards certainty.
Selling using data is a fast path to trust erosion and a polarized consensus buyer. Use stories and our brain's "certainty" craving to drive behavior instead.
Per my quote above and another below, the key is not to lead with logic. It's to lead with feeling - the feeling of UNCERTAINTY!
The WHO is trying to get your attention - because, if people aren't vigilant, they will go back to being gross. We all need to be hyper-aware of our impact on how we acquire and spread the virus.
But they're doing it wrong - and it will backfire. And we need to trust the World Health Organization in times of crisis.
Do you do this? Do you lead with ROI? Do you lead with data? Do you lead with scare tactics designed to tell your story, not the story of the recipient?
- We make decisions using feelings (the limbic), and use logic (the neocortex) to back it up. Not the other way around.
- Logic is polarizing. Once a feeling decision is made in our brain, we will use data to reinforce it - even if that data is meant to sell an opposing view.
When we try to sell clients on how much revenue growth they're going to experience using your solution, or the cost reductions, or the risk reductions using consolidated data from your client base, we are wired to not believe it. It must be put in the context of our own world - through stories.
"There is so much don't yet know. We don't have a vaccine yet. We don't know if this virus can take on other forms, meaning we are not able to create immunity. We don't know if it will strengthen. So, for the time being, be vigilant. Wash your hands. Avoid large public gatherings until we know more."
Think about this in how you sell. When you start, lead with a feeling - and in this case, the feeling of uncertainty wins.