Building Employee Trust through Effective Internal Communication during the Pandemic

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This summary is provided by the IPR Organizational Communication Research CenterDr. Yeonsoo Kim and colleagues studied how an organization’s base crisis responses and dialogic competency impacted employees’ trust, satisfaction, belonging, and support for the organization during the COVID-19 pandemic.An online survey of 378 U.S. employees who worked full-time at small, medium, and large companies across 18 industries was conducted in September, 2021.Key findings include:1.) Employees trusted their organizations’ pandemic-related commitment when organizations provided more instructing information.— Instructing information told employees what physical actions to take to protect themselves.2.) Employees became less likely to develop trust in their organizations’ pandemic-related commitment when organizations provided more adjusting information.— Adjusting information delivered emotional support to employees and helped them cope with the pandemic psychologically.3.) Employees developed trust in their organizations’ pandemic-related commitment when organizations demonstrated a higher level of dialogic competency by being open and respecting mutuality with employees.4.) Employees’ trust in organizations’ pandemic-related commitment further contributed to their support for organizational decisions during the pandemic, and their relational satisfaction with and belonging to the organizations.5.) Organizations’ dialogic competency directly contributed to employees’ support for organizational decisions during the pandemic, and their relational satisfaction with and belonging to the organizations.— Dialogic competency reflected the extent to which the organization listened to employees and engaged in open, transparent, and respectful conversations with employees during the pandemic.  Find the original study here. ...

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Engaging Employees in Corporate Social Responsibility Initiatives through Strategic Communication

This summary is provided by the IPR Organizational Communication Research CenterDr. Chuqing Dong, Dr. Yafei Zhang, and Dr. Song Ao investigated how an organization’s strategic communication on corporate social responsibility (CSR) can engage employees in CSR initiatives cognitively, emotionally, and behaviorally.An online survey  of 78 MBA students at a public university in the Southwest United States was conducted in March 2020. An online survey of 548 full-time and part-time employees conducted in November 2020.Key findings include:1.) Employees’ perceived social norms about participating in CSR were influenced by the approval or disapproval of their managers, higher leadership, and colleagues.2.) Employees perceived they had more control over participating in CSR when their organization provided paid time, communicated CSR better, and offered support.— Employees perceived less control when they faced a heavy workload, conflicting schedules, or a large time commitment.3.) Strategic CSR communication enhanced employees’ attitudes, perceived norm, and perceived behavioral control of CSR participation.4.) Enhanced attitudes and strengthened norm of CSR participation contributed to employees’ CSR engagement cognitively, emotionally, and behaviorally.— Perceived behavioral control of CSR participation was not associated with employees’ CSR engagement.Find the original study here. ...

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Disengagement vs. Burnout: What is the Difference?

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 Dr. Hongmei Shen and Dr. Chunbo Ren sought to define and establish disengagement as a unique concept. They also identified which factors drove disengagement and explored the behaviors through which it manifests. The study was motivated by the increasing global prevalence of employee disengagement and its detrimental effects on both organizational performance and culture.To better understand what disengagement looks like and how to define it, the researchers conducted 24 in-depth interviews with employees working in China.Key Findings                                                           — The researchers found that disengagement behaviors included an indifferent attitude to work, pulling away from being involved with colleagues and work events and a “who cares” approach to high priority tasks. — While disengagement and burnout are often perceived as similar, this study revealed a distinction between the two. Burnout is not characterized by a lack of willingness to contribute, but rather a state of being overwhelmed that restricts one’s capacity. On the other hand, disengagement involves employees who possess the necessary capacity and bandwidth but lack the motivation to actively engage.— Burnout can be understood as a temporary state that, if not remedied, can eventually lead to the more long-lasting state of disengagement. Implications for PracticeEmployers should recognize the significance of an employee’s alignment with both their role and the organizational culture as crucial factors influencing disengagement. A mismatch in these areas often serves as a predictor of disengaging behaviors. Additionally, employers should be mindful that they can adopt mitigating measures to decrease disengagement. This can be achieved through practices like actively listening to employees and actively involving them in the decision-making process of the organization. Click here to understand more about what disengagement looks like, how to recognize it, and how to prevent it.Shen, H., & Ren, C. (2023). Reconceptualizing employee disengagement as both attitudinal and behavioral: Narratives from China. Public Relations Review, 49(2), 102318.                                               ...

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Why Measuring Internal Communication Matters: Insights and Strategies for Better Results

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This blog is provided by the IPR Organizational Communication Research Center.Internal Communication (IC) is an essential part of any organization’s success. It is the backbone of a company’s culture and its ability to drive performance, engagement, and commitment among employees. However, measuring the effectiveness of internal communication has often been ignored or considered unimportant due to various reasons such as lack of resources, time, and effort. Some leaders also struggle to see the correlation between IC and business issues. But times are changing, and businesses are measuring more than ever, making it a strategic imperative.According to a 2023 Deloitte study, 58% of corporate affairs leaders consider data and insights to be their top area for improvement. This indicates the need for organizations to invest more in communication measurement and evaluation. The 2023 Brand Finance report, which ranks the world’s most valuable brands, also highlights that brands consistently make up 20-25% of the value of listed companies. Measurement and evaluation are crucial in helping leaders appreciate the value of brands, both internal and external.Measuring internal communication goes beyond proving value; it is now viewed as a strategic tool to make effective decisions and guide business priorities. It helps diagnose issues, allocate resources, create programs, and take action based on insights from data analysis.So, how can you ensure that internal communication measurement is a priority for your organization? Here are some strategies to consider:Set clear and SMART goals that align with the business’s priorities. For example, you could aim to enhance team outreach over the next six months by conducting six monthly meetups and engagement initiatives. Objectives could include increasing staff awareness and commitment to the organization’s purpose and goals, encouraging staff to talk positively about the company, improving brand perception and reputation, connecting staff to each other and the organization’s purpose, and increasing engagement and effectiveness in their roles.Identify specific audiences to engage, from skeptics to committed supporters and everyone in between. Getting everyone on board matters for successfully embedding measurement as a practice within the organization.Create a dashboard that brings all communication activities together, allowing stakeholders to see a comprehensive view of communication activities.Demonstrate the value of measurement by making it visible and inclusive. Invite stakeholders to share what they value the most, and ask what they think the organization should measure and report.Revisit and enhance how communication can further impact the business.Train “power” users of communications within business teams to be upskilled on measurement.Show how internal communication measurement can link to external communication and vice versa. For example, demonstrate how staff can act as ambassadors and contribute to content marketing in ways that help the brand’s reputation externally.The Barcelona Principles 2.0 recommend focusing on measuring outcomes (awareness, knowledge, relevance, etc.) and impact (such as productivity, innovation, reputation, safety, employee retention, and innovation), not just outputs like hits, views, or likes. Approaches for measurement and evaluation include surveys, polls, focus groups, interviews, and sentiment analysis.According to a Gartner update, most organizations do not invest enough in measurement or innovation. Organizations also tend to avoid broadcasting the value and impact of measurement and evaluation, which limits how the function is perceived.To effectively measure and evaluate internal communication, there are a few key questions that internal communicators should consider. By answering these questions, communicators can gain valuable insights into what is working, what isn’t, and how they can improve their strategies going forward. Here are some key questions to consider:Which channels are working well? Why?It’s important to understand which communication channels are resonating with employees and why. This can help communicators focus their efforts on the channels that are most effective, while also identifying areas for improvement. For example, if email newsletters are consistently getting high open and click-through rates, it might make sense to invest more resources into that channel. On the other hand, if social media posts aren’t getting much engagement, it might be worth exploring other channels that might be a better fit.Which content elements are trending? What is driving engagement?Similarly, it’s important to understand which types of content are resonating with employees and why. This can help communicators create more engaging content in the future. For example, if videos are consistently getting more views than other types of content, it might make sense to create more video content. On the other hand, if blog posts aren’t getting much engagement, it might be worth exploring other types of content that might be more engaging.Which type of employees are most involved? What are the drivers?It’s also important to understand which types of employees are most engaged with internal communication, and what is driving their engagement. This can help communicators tailor their strategies to better meet the needs and interests of different employee groups. For example, if younger employees are more likely to engage with social media content, it might make sense to create more social media content targeted at that demographic.How can internal communicators raise the profile of the function?Finally, it’s important for internal communicators to think about how they can raise the profile of the function within the organization. This might involve highlighting the impact that internal communication has on the organization or demonstrating the value of measurement and evaluation. By showing how internal communication is contributing to the success of the organization, communicators can ensure that their function is seen as an important part of the business.Measuring internal communication is more important than ever, and it requires a strategic approach. By setting clear goals, identifying specific audiences, creating a dashboard, demonstrating value, revisiting and enhancing communication impact, upskilling internal communication teams, and linking internal communication measurement to external communications, organizations can effectively measure the impact of internal communication and drive better results. Aniisu K. Verghese, Ph.D., is a globally recognized communicator and Prosci® Certified Change Management Practitioner with over two decades of experience. Aniisu holds a Ph.D. in organizational communications, runs Intraskope, a boutique communication and personal branding consultancy, and is based in Krakow, Poland. His mission is to help individuals and organizations discover and develop their sweet-spot through effective communications. He is the author of Internal Communications – Insights, Practices and Models. ...

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Majority of Gen Z Buys from Companies with Same Social Values

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Morning Consult analyzed Gen Z’s consumption habits, preferred brands, platforms, and forms of entertainment.A study of 2,205 U.S. adults was conducted from February 17-19, 2023.Key findings include: — 56% of Gen Z respondents said they prefer to buy from companies that reflect their social values, compared to:—- 59% of Millennials —- 61% of Gen X—- 59% of Baby Boomers— YouTube (88%) was the most used platform by Gen Z, followed by Instagram (76%) and TikTok (68%).— To research a major news event, Gen Z respondents were most likely to use a Google search (39%) followed by TikTok (14%).— Gen Z consumers were most brand-loyal in the “personal electronics” category: only 26% said they “make an effort to try new brands” with electronics.Find the original study here. ...

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Who has Influence in Organizations?

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Those of us who communicate for a living are in the business of influence. We shape the reputations of our organizations, the narratives coming from leaders’ mouths, and — critically — the stories we tell ourselves about who we are. But today, we seek influence in a media and information landscape of unprecedented complexity.One way for leaders to think about that landscape is as a network of influence. Your network is vastly larger than it was 10 years ago, and it has no clear boundaries. New voices can join at any time. Ideas flow continuously in all directions. You can’t control the narrative, and you often can’t predict the context in which your messages will land. You’re doing improv, and you have to read the room every minute.At Integral, the employee experience agency I founded five years ago this month, we have always argued that the most influential voices in any organization’s network are its employees.Employees agree.This month, as part of our ongoing partnership with the Harris Poll, we conducted a national survey of 1,200 employees to understand how they think about influence within their organizations. We asked both “who has influence?” and “who should have influence?”.The results were striking. We gave respondents a list of 16 constituencies and asked them which ones they believe have the most influence on their company’s actions. The group most often cited as influential was employees – ahead of customers, the board of directors, competitors, and shareholders: Next, we asked who should have influence on their company’s actions: While the top answers were similar, there were important differences. Far more respondents said employees should be influential than said employees are influential – 62% to 47%, the largest gap in our survey. Respondents also said customers should be more influential than they are (51% to 45%), while boards of directors and competitors should be less influential than they are: The results also underscored the fact that employees are a diverse public with needs and attitudes that vary by age, race/ethnicity, gender, political philosophy, and other factors.For example: Male employees are more likely than female employees to say that several groups should have influence over their company’s actions: the Board of Directors (29% vs. 18%), Shareholders (28% vs. 19%), and Distributors (18% vs. 11%)Black employees are far more likely than either Hispanic or white employees to cite racial inequality and related issues as something they would like to see their employer influence in society (38% vs. 17% and 12%, respectively.)Younger employees are more likely than employees ages 45+ to advocate for the influence of labor and trade unions (25%) professional affiliations/associations (24%), distributors (22%), media outlets (22%) and geographic communities (10%).  While there is a wealth of data to be found in our survey results – reach out if you want to learn more — the most important takeaway is that your employees are the leading voices in your network, and they want to be.Employees are your most important public. Listen to them. Understand them. Engage them in and enable a multidirectional dialogue. When they talk about your organization – on LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Fishbowl, or a dozen other channels – their voices will be the among the most trusted. And, not coincidentally, those engaged employees will be a huge driver of your business results. Ethan McCarty is the CEO of Integral, an award-winning Employee Experience Agency. He lectures at Columbia University in New York City and is a member of the Forbes Business Council. He currently is a member of the Institute for Public Relation’s Board of Trustees and is Director of the IPR Organizational Communication Research Center. ...

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Deconstructing: Artificial Intelligence Regulation

Download Full Article (PDF): Deconstructing: Artificial Intelligence RegulationThis research brief is provided by the IPR Digital Media Research Center Introduction Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been a disruptive force within the communication industry.  Regulations of this new technology have yet to keep pace with the technological development of generative AI.  However, within the United States, the President, Congress, federal agencies, state legislatures, and municipal governments have attempted to provide a framework to regulate AI.  These regulations attempt to strike a balance between allowing the technology to grow and guarding against issues of disinformation, discrimination, and privacy violations. This article examines the current trends in U.S. AI regulation pointing out the legal and regulatory philosophies that guiding early attempts to manage generative AI platforms.  The article concludes with suggestions for PR practitioners to navigate the evolving parameters of AI regulation.  ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE: THE COMMUNICATION ISSUE OF THE 2020sThe power of generative artificial intelligence has sent both awe and fear for those with knowledge-based careers, such as public relations. Looking at the trade presses and seminars in the field, the issue of how do we use artificial intelligence (AI), how does AI help us with communication strategy, and how will AI potentially make public relations practitioners obsolete, are common questions. Generative AI’s disruption to communication is analogous to the creation of the internet. When the internet was put in public domain for use in 1993, there was trepidation by some organizations to become part of the online revolution. The beginnings of online growth saw some organizations rapidly adopt the new technology, while others were more cautious. By the late 1990s the proliferation of the internet led to the dot com bubble and the eventual crash of those companies in the early 2000s. From that event, regulation of the internet proliferated in the 2000s, and led to the current status we operate in today.The internet’s evolution is illustrative of how AI regulation is likely to develop. The technology is rapidly evolving and there is uncertainty in how it will be implemented. Managers and communicators share a mutual interest and skepticism of the real benefit of AI. This is also accelerated by the democratization of AI tools. Utilizing machine learning and generative AI does not necessarily require custom software. And barriers to AI use, such as hardware, software, machine learning models, data, and expertise data scientists, are more available with costs trending downward for organizations. That means that AI as a tool is gaining more traction in a variety of work settings, large and small.This situation presents a difficult position for lawmakers and industry organizations who are seeking to regulate generative AI in this early phase. Too much regulation can stifle the growth of an important new technology. No regulations would potentially facilitate a free-for-all development of generative AI that can result in unintended adverse impacts on user privacy, increase of discrimination, and the loss of intellectual property. This article examines existing and proposed U.S. laws and regulations on AI and provides suggestions for how professional communicators practicing in the U.S. can navigate this fast-paced and evolving technology.What Does This Mean for U.S. Based PR Practitioners?Giving public relations practitioners precise measures for navigating their communication work is difficult given the state of flux of AI regulation. At this stage the legal system is porting out where the problem points are in AI, with privacy, discrimination, and disinformation being major areas of concern. Going forward, PR practitioners should be aware of three major issues.1. EXPECT REGULATORY CHANGE FROM MULTIPLE LEVELS OF GOVERNMENT.U.S. law is in a state of flux, and that means that as the technology of AI evolves so will the law. Federal agency law is likely to address the particular issues of AI in communication, so practitioners should pay close attention to FTC regulations in the area. That agency is concerned over many of the topical issues in communication, namely disinformation. However, U.S.-based practitioners increasingly communicate in a global marketplace, which may have laws that differ to that in the U.S. For instance, the European Union GDPR regulates data privacy, which has major impact for the construction of AI platforms. Understanding the evolving landscape of AI regulation means looking at U.S. federal, state, and local law, but is also requires a global perspective.2. COMBATTING DISCRIMINATION AND FAKE NEWS ARE MAJOR DRIVERS OF REGULATION.AI regulation has increasingly focused on discrimination and false information. At the basis of artificial intelligence is human knowledge. That knowledge has been developed over thousands of years and contains inaccuracies, biases, and other disinformation that can be replicated by AI. The bottom line is AI is only as good as the data it uses to generate content, so it is important for professional communicators to be wary of the accuracy of any exclusively generated AI content. As a business, public relations firms and in-house functions have a unique opportunity to discuss bias and accuracy of information with clients and employers, because so much of the law is rooted in transparency. PR professionals have worked with issues of organizational transparency since the dawn of corporate PR, so regulations, like that in New York City, that mandates disclosure of algorithm use and potential bias lends itself well to the transparent practices of communication.3. PR PROFESSIONALS NEED TO DEVELOP AN ORGANIZATIONAL OR INDUSTRY STANDARD TO DEAL WITH EVOLVING AI.AI technology will evolve faster than the laws that regulate it. Because of that, public relations professionals will need to establish professional standards and norms for AI use. Those conversations need to happen now, and need to continue to happen as AI’s place in the field becomes more solidified. This conversation should include frank discussions around ethics, organizational reputation, transparency, and business goals. Ethical guides for industry provide a framework for difficult discussions about implementing AI. However, these discussions must consider both the deliberate and unintended consequences of AI use. These conversations may also include industry standards in niche subfields. For example, AI guidelines have already been establishedin some sectors, such as in engineering and healthcare. If a professional is practicing in one of these areas, these standards can serve as a guidepost for communications as well.For more information, download the full report HERE. Cayce Myers, Ph.D., LL.M., J.D., APR is the Legal Research Editor for the Institute for Public Relations.  He is the Director of Graduate Studies and Associate Professor at the Virginia Tech School of Communication. ...

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How COVID-19 Influenced Internal Communication

This summary is provided by the IPR Organizational Communication Research Center based on the original study. To learn more about this topic from Dr. Vercic, register for the IPR Master Class on Employee Engagement.Dr. Verčič and Dr. Špoljarić investigated the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on employees’ perceptions of their employers and changes in internal communication practices.A survey of 3,457 employees was conducted. 1,805 participants completed the survey from May to October 2019 and 1,652 participants completed the survey from October 2020 to February 2021.Key findings include:1.) Specific aspects of internal communication were more significant during a crisis, such as satisfaction with information about the organization and the communication climate.— Other aspects including satisfaction with feedback, informal communication, and quality of communication media, became less important.2.) Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, satisfaction with information about the organization and the communication climate played significant roles in determining employer attractiveness.3.) Horizontal communication emerged as a critical factor for internal employer attractiveness, both prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic.Find the original study here. ...

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The Cure Effect: Choosing Your Words Carefully in Health Care Communications

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This blog is provided by the IPR Behavioral Insights Research Center. Anyone working in public relations or corporate communication knows that words matter. Behavioral scientists have amassed considerable evidence that even small wording changes can sometimes have surprisingly large effects on people’s attitudes, judgments, and behaviors. Some of this work has focused on wording that contains “logically” equivalent phrasing but is either framed positively or negatively. For example, researchers have shown that people are less likely to go under the knife if the potential outcome of a surgery is framed in terms of failure (e.g., a 1% mortality rate) rather than success (e.g., a 99% chance of survival).Semantically similar phrasing can also affect decision making. One of the best-known examples of this bias comes from an experiment in which individuals who viewed an automobile accident were asked to judge the speed of the cars when they either “smashed,” “collided,” “bumped,” “contacted,” or “hit” one another. Using “smashed” in the question led to higher speed estimates than any of the other verbs, an intriguing result that shows how leading questions can subtly shape the answers of witnesses in a trial.In health communications, the labels that drug companies use to describe their medications can also affect how people respond. As an example, a recent paper found that when a drug was described as preventing a health problem rather than curing a problem, consumers displayed a stronger preference for the drug to be natural and sustainable. On the other hand, when the drug was described as curative (vs. preventative), consumers cared more about the drug’s potency and effectiveness.In a new research article forthcoming in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, I find evidence of another wording effect that Marketing and Communications leaders who work in health care (including pharmaceuticals and biotech) should know about. Specifically, I show that when a health treatment (e.g., a medication or drug) is described as a cure, it fundamentally changes individuals’ expectations about how the treatment will be priced.Because a drug that claims to cure a disease or illness seems superior to a drug that does not make such a strong claim, you might think that people would tolerate higher prices for cures than non-cures. This is consistent with the principle of “value-based” pricing: in general, people are willing to pay more for products or services that are more effective and therefore provide greater value.But that’s not what I found! Instead, in the domain of health care, I provide robust evidence of a cure effect in which individuals prefer lower price levels for cures (vs. non-cures) and consider high prices to be especially unfair. This effect persists when companies describe their treatment by directly using the word “cure” or indirectly using language that merely suggests it is a cure (e.g., “100% effective,” “eliminates disease”).Why does the cure effect occur? My research shows that when thinking about health treatments, people tend to focus on communal value rather than the traditional market value that underlies value-based pricing. In other words, because health care naturally lends itself to thinking about close relationships with others, individuals seek the fair and just distribution of outcomes. People are especially concerned about communal value when thinking about cures because they seem to be so effective and can presumably have an outsized effect on people’s well-being (e.g., cures can save lives). As a result, individuals demand lower prices for cures so that they can be more universally accessed.The cure effect has important managerial and public policy implications, which can be highlighted by the cautionary tale of the biotechnology company, Gilead Sciences. Nearly a decade ago, when launching its new hepatitis C drugs, Sovaldi and Harvoni, Gilead loudly trumpeted that the drugs were cures and therefore warranted their exorbitant $1,000-per-pill price tag. This communications approach, which aligns with a value-based pricing model, fell flat in the court of public opinion. Patients and consumer watchdog organizations alike rose up against Gilead, deriding the company for engaging in unlawful price gouging. An inquiry was even opened to assess whether Gilead had violated consumer protection laws. In hindsight, Gilead did itself no favors by claiming that its drugs were cures that could eliminate the hepatitis C virus. A more restrained communications approach would have likely sparked much less consumer outrage.  Taking a public policy perspective, the current Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines related to medication labels give drug manufacturers and marketers considerable flexibility in their word choices on product labels and advertisements. Because health treatments that claim to be cures are judged differently than non-cures—irrespective of whether this claim is accurate or inaccurate—it is imperative that regulatory agencies such as the FDA ensure that labels that appear on health treatments are truthful. Even if certain word pairs are accepted and considered interchangeable by the FDA or other regulatory agencies, they may be semantically different in the minds of individuals. My research shows that the mere substitution of one label for another can exert substantial influence on people’s judgments and behaviors that are both societally consequential and managerially relevant, such as insistence on universal drug access, price preferences, and price fairness judgments.References:Isaac, M. (2023). cure effect: Individuals demand universal access for health treatments that claim to eliminate disease symptoms. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, forthcoming.Loftus, E. F., & Palmer, J. C. (1974). Reconstruction of automobile destruction: An example of the interaction between language and memory. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 13(5), 585-589. Dr. Mathew Isaac is the chair of business administration at Albers School of Business and Economics at Seattle University. He is a marketing professor and senior advisor at Seattle University. Dr. Isaac is also a member of the IPR Behavioral Insights Research Center. ...

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