As founder and president of Crossroad Communications and Decision Science, Dyna Vink has over 20 years of experience in strategic and risk communications, marketing, change management, and stakeholder engagement. Using the latest technology, she has adopted a science-informed and evidence-based approach to problem solve and manage behavior across disciplines. 
We tracked Dyna down at IABC World Conference 2018 and found out how data and science can help communicators and stakeholders make better decisions.




Video Transcript

Chuck Gose: All right, Dyna. Welcome to Chuck Chats Live!

Dyna Vink: Thank you!

Chuck: I understand this is not your first time at World Conference, but it's always great being here. Why don't you share with everybody a little bit about the headline topics of your talk here at the event.

Dyna: Right, well, the headline, it stems from some of the ethical issues that have been spawned by the Bell Pottinger case.

Chuck: Okay.

Dyna: And how it has degraded some of the reputation and the effectiveness of communications and PR individuals. And so I approach communications from a science-formed and evidence-based approach, which is intended to elevate the industry and to elevate the conversation.

Chuck: You said Bell Pottinger? I'm not familiar with what that is, so explain what that is.

Dyna: Okay. Well, Bell Pottinger was a PR company, a UK based, very large organization with global reach. And they were hired by the Gupta family in South Africa to clean up their reputation. And the way that was done was to promote racial divide in a country that already had racial tension, and to overlook certain things that were really quite unethical.

Chuck: Okay.

Dyna: So there were a lot of problems that emerged from that, so they were evicted from the PR Association in the UK.

Chuck: Now I think this is ringing a bell. Yes.

Dyna: And the whole company dissolved, but in the bigger picture, PR organizations internally, as well as external agencies were asked about their ethical conduct. And so everyone was asked to do a bit of a check, an analysis on where they were at, and what sort of support or liability they would form for their organizations.

Chuck: Okay. Reading through your session description, you mentioned a term I wasn't familiar with, which is decision science.

Dyna: Yes.

Chuck: So explain, what is decision science?

Dyna: Okay, well decision science is comprised of information from a number of areas of study. So it comes from politics, from psychology, from behavior science, from several different areas. And it is, well, it started as an academic area of study.

But 25 years ago, a guy started trying to apply the science, and he's been very effective at this, and what's happened now, is that there's a series of protocols and tools as well as some software that are combined on a platform that will now support the science in order to deliver a science-informed and evidence-based capability.

So that's kind of the "what's new" with decision science.

Chuck: So one of the things you talk about in your description, which I'm curious about, is you asked the question, what if communicators had the capability to influence stakeholder judgment and behavior?

Dyna: Right.

Chuck: So are you saying that they don't have that capability? Or are you thinking that they should now have that capability? Where does that question come from?

Dyna: Well, one could approach this from an ethical standpoint or a non-ethical, right?

So in the area of public safety and international development and other areas where you want to change behavior, this is a very powerful tool for doing that. So for instance, in South Africa, our organization has played a key role in changing the health and safety standard of a racially taut mining industry in the country.

So there were unnecessary obstacles in introducing these health and safety improvements by technology transfer and new technical capabilities. But because other things got in the way, they weren't able to do it.

Chuck: Yep.

Dyna: So, you know any kind of communication, and often marketing as well, seeks a change in behavior, either to purchase a product or to take a survey or to use an app or something.

Chuck: Yep.

Dyna: So those are all examples of behavior change, but when it comes to public safety, of course, there can be some pretty significant outcomes. And usually for the good.

Chuck: Yeah. Now there's another quote that I wanted to take from you. So you said, "If we can learn what the unmet information needs are without bias or assumption, we can fill those gaps and share ideas without misinterpretation."

Dyna: Right.

Chuck: So my question around that is how do we remove bias without removing ourselves? Because we're all naturally biased.

Dyna: No, that's a great question. So with this process, what we do is we do it in three steps. And most research misses the middle step.

Chuck: Okay.

Dyna: So first of all, we start with the project orientation and a literature review. So you kind of figure out what's going on before. It helps to set the stage of what the project objectives should be, which is often a very difficult point, right? That start of a project can be pretty haphazard sometimes. So this really helps to set it on a good footing.

So the second step is to develop an expert model. So what we do is we go out and we talk to a number of experts in a field who come at it from say an academic side, a private sector side, an association side, a practitioner side. All right, so you've got a number of different perspectives that are brought together and are able to say, "This is how it should be." So we have a benchmark.

And then you go to the stakeholders and you do the mental model or the stakeholder impression and then you'll find that there are a whole bunch of other details that emerge. So while your information in asking is framed from that expert model, it has to be fleshed out from the stakeholder position.

And then you can do a gap analysis, and then you find out what people know and what they don't know and what they need to know.

So then you are not inserting yourself in that process. You're not inserting your own bias into that.

Chuck: Good point. Yep.

Dyna: Because you're talking to people. And you know they tell you in their own words from these interviews. And the interviews are in-depth, they're usually an hour or so in length, so people are given all the time they need to tell you as much as they want.

Chuck: An interesting bullet point that you had in your session, which, your session is tomorrow, correct?

Dyna: Yes.

Chuck: Okay. You mentioned that women, you thought would be the biggest winners with this approach?

Dyna: Yes.

Chuck: Why do you think women would be an advantage because of this approach?

Dyna: Okay, yes. Well, so when we look at competency, it's made up of a couple factors. It's made up of trust and empathy and capability. And when you look at that, women tend to rank higher than men on the empathy scale, right? That's pretty standard. But on the competency end, they tend to be undervalued.

Chuck: Okay.

Dyna: The perception is that they don't do as well. So when women can show up with science-informed and evidence-based delivery or research outcome, then that ups their overall quotient.

Chuck: Very interesting. Yeah, I wondered about that when you had that in there.

Dyna: Yeah, so everybody wins, right? But women do better.

Chuck: And then, last question for you. So it's a pretty common topic among communicators that they want to be the trusted expert. They want to have the seat at the table. How does this process help them become that trusted expert?

Dyna: Yeah, well, that's another great question. Using this process, because it's so transparent, and because it is science-informed and evidence-based, it means that a lot more people are willing to come to the table. So you you know that you're not just talking to yourself, right? Or talking to the two or three people sitting around the table.

Chuck: Right.

Dyna: You're bringing in experts of disciplines. They're willing to work with you because they understand that the process is fair and transparent, that the expertise that they give you will not be twisted or somehow set aside. And so that ends up resulting in a more trustworthy kind of a response. So you've got better input from different stakeholder groups and that can be very carefully managed, depending on what the situation is. 

Chuck: Right.

Dyna: We did another project in delivering anthrax vaccines in the American military, which was quite tenuous. And also, for say, relicensing a nuclear plant, where there could be a lot of tensions, a lot of emotional baggage there. But it's been used very effectively for those and other controversial types of issues.

Chuck: Okay, well, Dyna, good luck with your session and thanks for being on Chuck Chats.

Dyna: Thank you.