As Christians, we know the importance of relationship; it is the very essence of who we are. We are called into relationship with Jesus and commissioned to love others by sharing the gospel and putting others above ourselves. We show love by connecting through the establishment of relationship – free from judgment or condemnation.
Aside from the priority of leaning on Holy Spirit driven guidance, one way we can be effective in making connection in the Life Community is to understand the emotion-fueled thoughts racing through the minds of those sitting in front of us. This, coupled with the messaging that led them to our divine appointment to begin with, helps us step outside ourselves and meet a woman where she is.
This is the heart of what drove the Vitae Foundation to conduct decades of research and partner with a multitude of pregnancy centers to get the right message out in an effective and persuasive manner through media. Marketing Director Scott Tygett and Program Director Debbie Stokes, speaking in their Jefferson City, MO office, say the success of Vitae began by stepping outside of conventional marketing parameters.
To understand a woman in an unplanned pregnancy situation, the common approach involves research studying responses from a person's left side of the brain, which is thought to draw more of an analytical, cold and logical way of thinking. However, the right side of the brain is believed to control the emotional, intuitive and creative aspect of a person – and this is where Vitae began to explore over twenty years ago to understand the emotional dynamics influencing a woman’s unplanned pregnancy decision.
Partnering with Dr. Charles Kenney of The Right Brain People and their Right Brain Research methodology, the first study was entitled, Abortion – A Failure To Communicate. The result was a complete paradigm shift within the pro-life arena. The findings uncovered that women in unplanned pregnancies didn’t really have the question of the baby’s biology or if abortion was right or wrong. Instead, she is most focused on how she feels about herself and how the baby will affect her immediate situation.
[Click here to subscribe to Pregnancy Help News!]
For women who chose abortion, the decision was viewed as being the “lesser of three evils” and research found that only women who had more guilt over shame would continue the unplanned pregnancy to term. However, if a woman has a higher sense of how she perceives others would view her by having a child unplanned, she will be more likely to have an abortion. Adoption is something that most women would only consider once they made the decision to continue their pregnancy and, from a counseling standpoint, was not a topic for initial discussion.
Understanding this dynamic and insight gained through this research was key in reaching women. Rather than focusing on ads in an attempt to change the culture, Vitae began gearing its marketing toward the emotions of the woman faced with an untimely pregnancy.
Recently, Vitae and Kenney completed their seventh and latest study involving more than 70 women, all of whom were clients of Planned Parenthood. In the first of a three-part series, Dr. Jeff Pauls, Vitae’s Research Analyst, highlighted some of the Planned Parenthood's brand’s strengths, weaknesses and messaging.
Among the strengths, the study found that the Planned Parenthood brand offered control, freedom, acceptance, confidentiality and lack of judgment to clients. Some of the weaknesses were long wait times, poor treatment, high staff turnover and frustration with hours, fees, policies and coverage.
The respondents also noted the fear, anger, anxiety and self-judgment they personally experienced in the waiting room, but nonetheless had initial feelings of safety. The emotional and physically safe viewpoint often changed due to what the respondents described as problems with the procedure, post-abortion complications and the “run-down” location of the clinic.
[Click here to subscribe to Pregnancy Help News!]
Vitae continues to gain insight with their studies and as Tygett points out, “At the end of the day – Abortion affects women. As a pro-life community, we need to acknowledge that 99% of the time, women are not walking into an abortion clinic to end the life of their child. They are seeking to alleviate fear, stress, anxiety and the “death of self’ – all of which has been shown in our research.”
Stokes says the next level Vitae plans to bring to pregnancy centers is a partnership with the Missouri-based media and marketing company, Caledon. Having the same vision, Caledon’s partnership will look at a pregnancy center’s market to determine what works effectively while implementing Vitae’s research-based messaging. The hope is to create a standard of excellence for pro-life media by offering the most cost effective, streamlined packaging of website, SEO, social media, messaging placement, etc. to maximize the reach to women and connect them to partnering pregnancy centers.
According to Tygett, while the abortion lobby pushes the rhetoric of, “pro-lifers hate women,” the life-affirming community can effectively counter this with a consistent, pro-woman message. By staying on message and focusing in on “right-brain” aspects of the decision-making process, life-affirming pregnancy centers are in a position to make strong advances into better connecting with those the abortion industry most wants to reach.