MHP partners with Affective Brain Lab to launch Networked Age research


The digital revolution and human psychology are forcing organisations and leaders to reevaluate the way they communicate and challenge traditional ways of influencing opinions, according to a new guide published today by MHP and experts from the Affective Brain Lab, part of University College London (UCL).

In this Networked Age, where clusters of like-minded people share and debate information, and where audiences have become more polarised and tribal, businesses and brands need to understand better what motivates people’s thinking and how they must adapt their communications to get their messages across, says The guide to the Networked Age.

The guide to The Networked Age

What is the networked age?

MHP Deputy CEO Nick Barron collaborated with the Affective Brain Lab at UCL to draw up the three new rules of The Networked Age. He explains to MHP’s Head of Health Communications Kate Pogson how unexpected events like the EU referendum and the election of Donald Trump led him to think why communicators were failing to connect with their audiences.

MHP Deputy CEO Nick Barron talks to Kate Pogson

Leading communications firm MHP partnered with Dr Tali Sharot and her team at the Affective Brain Lab, the behavior change team at UCL, to codify the psychological principles that should inform effective communications campaigns. Together they have developed an analysis of how digital technology and human psychology are changing the rules of engagement for organisations.

The guide explains the biases that communicators need to understand and sets out the New Rules of Influence that should underpin any communications strategy.

Watch highlights from The Networked Age launch event


What you are is as important as what you do: To build reputation and influence people, doing the right thing is just table stakes. Audiences are tribal and united around shared narratives and values. To engage people, organisations must show they (and the people who run them) share the same values

Influencers and passions spread ideas: People follow people like themselves and they respond to passionate voices. Networks are not egalitarian – conversations are dominated by a few voices. To engage at scale, finding the right people to work with is critical

Arguments are never won, outcomes are: People seek out information that confirms what they already believe. This is called ‘motivated reasoning’ and it means that people will reject challenging arguments, even if they are supported by facts. To persuade people, you can’t tell them they’re wrong, you must deploy different strategies.

MHP launched the Networked Age research at an event in Westminster. The panel comprised MHP deputy CEO Nick Barron, Dr Tali Sharot, author and journalist Tom Baldwin, Matthew Goodwin, Professor of Politics at The University of Kent and the newly appointed Global CEO of the Engine Group Kasha Cacy.

The panel discussion was chaired by MHP’s head of health communications Kate Pogson.

Speaking at the launch of the Guide, Nick Barron, MHP Deputy CEO, said: “Digital technology has created a networked world, where clusters of like-minded people share and debate stories and ideas amongst themselves. In this new world, unless we understand people, we cannot understand communication. That’s why we partnered with Dr Tali Sharot and the Affective Brain Lab, to develop a new way of looking at client challenges.”

Dr Tali Sharot

Dr Sharot, Principal Investigator at the Affective Brain Lab, and author of the acclaimed book The Influential Mind, said: “We believe that understanding these rules can help people promote truth. To elicit change we need to go along with how our brain works, not against it. We need to appreciate and account for human bias.”

Also on the panel was Engine Global CEO Kasha Cacy. She said the New Rules of The Networked Age apply in all marketing and communications work throughout the world.

Engine Global CEO, Kasha Cacy

Author and journalist Tom Baldwin, who leads the People’s Vote campaign for a second EU referendum explains why the rules of The Networked Age are a reminder that who you are is just as important as the message that you are trying to share.

Tom Baldwin, author and journalist

Prof Matthew Goodwin, of the University of Kent politics department, told guests at The Networked Age launch event that contrary to popular view, many young people are increasingly closed to the liberal internationalist agenda because they have grown up exposed to messages which often go unchallenged.

Prof Matthew Goodwin
  • Kasha Cacy
  • Prof Matthew Goodwin
  • Dr Tali Sharot, Tom Baldwin, Kate Pogson
  • Dr Tali Sharot
  • Nick Barron
  • Alex Bigg