76: Leave Fear-Based Messaging Behind

Pattern of Purpose podcast episode 76 cover art

As we’ve been living through COVID-19, it’s been fascinating to examine the messaging behind mask wearing, quarantine orders, and re-opening the country. While, on the surface it may seem like public health messaging is drastically different from the approach small businesses take, there is a connection.

That’s the use of fear tactics.

On this episode I’m sharing why I believe using fear in your messaging and marketing is ineffective and how it may backfire on you.

More specifically, I cover:

  • How my background in health communication informs my work today,
  • Case studies of campaigns that centered on fear tactics,
  • Whether or not scarcity tactics are good to use in your messaging,
  • The emotions that will build connection and trust more effectively than fear,
  • The distinction between fear and discomfort, and
  • Why we can't let fear get in the way of the most important work we have to do as humans.


Empathy, stories, and emotion are what will build trust with your audience.

If you’re hanging your marketing on a “once a year” opportunity, you simply can’t uphold trust by offering it more than that.

Buyers want to feel like a hero for their behaviors.

Fear isn't an excuse to opt-out of anti-racism work.


“Shaming doesn’t change behavior either…at least for the long-term. It divides us and puts us on the defense. We feel we have to justify ourselves and prove our point, often by doing the exact thing someone doesn’t want us to do.”

“It feels pretty dismissive to me to assume that my life will just be horrible if I don’t become your customer.”

“If we think about messaging that is more effective at changing minds and behaviors, those are the ones that make people feel in charge of their future.”

"We don't deserve a pat on the back for doing the right thing."

"If you're not willing to stand up and speak out, you're not living out your values—you're part of the problem."