Are you getting your message out there or in there?

What’s your approach to communication? 

If your communication plan is focused on getting your message ‘out there’, you’re not alone. It’s easy to gather ‘hit’ stats these days, so we’re starting to believe a hit equals being heard.

We even measure media campaign success rates by the number of centimetres a story got in the newspaper, divided by something to do with ad $$$, times the… What’s that about?

It’s time to take the road less travelled when it comes to communication… and think about how to get our messages ‘in there’. Because (to really mix metaphors) using communication tools as a battering ram isn’t a good look.

And keeping ‘at it’ won’t make an impact, especially if what we’re doing is telling people what we want them to know.

Photo: freeimages.co.uk

Photo: freeimages.co.uk

Why isn’t anyone listening?
T
he trouble with communication is that people aren’t computers. We can’t put data in and expect a certain result. The way people behave, what they need, and why they ‘buy’ are more complex than the connections on our motherboards.

So if we want to do more than just get our messages out there, we have to take a good look at the market, who our clients and customers are, what they’re buying, and why.

Who are you talking to?
Think about Richard Branson’s fresh approach to promoting and running his airline. He succeeded where other ‘budget’ airlines had failed. Why? Because he knew exactly who he was talking to. And it wasn’t business class fliers.

Virgin was all about getting more average income earners in the air. And it started with a client-focused approach to communication.

What’s in it for me?
What will your product or service do for your client? Think benefits. Compare a Virgin ad to one for 
another airline’s business class. Different audiences… very different benefits.

Client benefits are about feelings and needs. Looking good (to peers, shareholders, clients, friends), working smarter not harder, being seen as ethical and (these days) green, being more profitable, saving time, being instrumental in getting the job done (…and therefore looking good), and more.

What is it that will make our existing or potential clients/customers listen and act on our messages?

A new way of talking
It takes a lot more thought and it’s not an easy process. Most of us are locked into just getting our messages out because that’s where our bosses or clients see value for $$$ – and it’s a hard habit to break.

It’s like learning another language. We have to take small steps, do the groundwork, and practice, practice, practice. And it helps if we can get others understanding and using the same language. 

Changing our language might help change the way we approach communication.

Because the companies that know how to get their messages ‘in there’ are the companies that succeed.

 

Adapted: Article first published in the Dragonfly Ink’s e-newsletter, The Buzz, in July 2008.

 

What does your communication style say about you?

I was working with a new client the other day, and I have to say, it was a delight. This client had a very strong sense of who he was and what his business was about. And he wanted his written communication to reflect that.

He had the vital ingredient when it comes to communication style: authenticity.

So instead of creating a hazy document, muddied with corporate-speak, we were able to put together a clear, simple document that said what he wanted to say and in a way he would say it himself.

He was willing to take a risk, be a little different – be real. I call it a WYSIWYG approach. What You See Is What You Get.

The term is used to describe computing systems that display the text as it will appear in the final output, rather than in code (e.g. HTML).

I use it to describe a piece of writing that clearly conveys the ‘personality’ or ‘voice’ of the person or organisation it is about – no secret codes, no BS. You know what you’re getting.

That’s authentic – and it’s good for business. Your clients and customers can feel comfortable knowing that you mean what you say – and the language and style you use is consistent with who you are. It inspires confidence.

Does the style or ‘voice’ of your content – in websites, reports, and marketing material – reflect who you and your organisation really are? Is your communication authentic?

This is the second in our series of posts about branding. You might also like to read: Is the ‘face’ of your business sending the right message?

Is the ‘face’ of your business looking good?

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The other day, I dropped into a local cupcake shop on the way to a concept development meeting (because eating cupcakes while getting creative is pretty nice really).

One of my dragonflies was with me, and we approached the counter and greeted the sales girl.

Blank stare. ‘Yes?’

We did a double-take but proceeded to choose our cupcakes – which took all of 30 seconds (okay, maybe 40) – while she stood there with her eyes rolled to the ceiling… Clearly we were taking up her valuable time.

When we made our choices, she put them in the box, dumped it on the counter, snapped out the amount, and took my money. She handed back the change, again without a word, and we both stood there gobsmacked. I  wanted to say, ‘I’ve changed my mind. I don’t want the cupcakes anymore’. But I didn’t.

Instead, we both walked out of that cupcake shop with a bad taste in our mouths. I wonder if the business owner realises how much custom the ‘face of his business’ is turning away? 

I’m sure you’ve got your own stories to tell, including great experiences you could talk about.

Talk and tell are the key words here. Because that’s what we do – about the good, the bad, the ugly customer service. 

And that brings me to branding. Businesses will pay a lot of money to build brand recognition, while the human ‘face’ of their business may be undoing all that good work.

Why? Because customers talk, and word of mouth is the best, most cost-effective, and most powerful marketing tool you have at your disposal.

What does the face of your business look like? Are your people’s attitudes consistent with your branding efforts? Do customers get the experience they expect from you – every time?

Customer service expectations need to be clearly communicated. It’s not enough to expect your employees to know how to act, or to know that the way they behave is an important factor in your business’s success (and therefore their jobs…). 

It’s vital to regularly evaluate performance too, and to recognise and reward good performance.

Think about cupcakes. No matter how great those cupcakes are, we won’t be going there again. Which is good for our waistline – but not good for their bottom line.

Is it time to look at the face of your business?

Your brand, your people: Be ready when things turn around

As the global financial meltdown continues, organisations are having to find ways to trim back to stay profitable – or just to stay in business. And it is the organisation’s people that are often the first to go. 

Many organisations see their communication department as the place to start. But Russell Grossman, director of communication at the UK Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform prods our memories in Natasha Nicholson’s article Staying up during the downturn (CW Magazine, Jan-Feb 2009):

“…remember the disastrous consequences of doing that in the last recession [in the U.K.] more than 15 years ago. Firms that did so were ill prepared when they needed to power up again. The firms that didn’t lay off all their communicators had a clear advantage after the economy improved”.

Unfortunately, losing people equates to losing both skills and company knowledge – but there is another thing to consider. Your brand.

Just last year, organisations were focussing on attracting and retaining the right people in a competitive marketplace. A lot of time, money and effort went into building a credible brand  and becoming employers of choice.

All that good work can unravel very quickly – especially if ex-staff start talking your organisation down. So the heart-wrenching task of laying people off needs to be handled with care and compassion – for your sake and theirs. 

Head of brand and employee engagement at Publicis Consultants in the UK, Kevin Keohane, ABC, puts it perfectly (CW Magazine, Jan-Feb 2009):

“…the way [people] are treated on the way out the door is likely to have big implications on how they perceive – and communicate about – your organisation… Handle the departure well, and you may create an advocate for life, who may come back to work for you, refer star employees to you, or promote your product or service. …Handle it poorly…and you’ve probably created a vocal brand assassin.”

And finally, Gaynor Parke advises organisations not to panic in Be Resourceful (emPower magazine), and reminds us of this piece of wisdom from Henry Ford

“You can take my business, burn up my building, but give me my people and I’ll build the business right back again”.

And he’d know.

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There’s another side to retrenchment… read this dragonfly post about the ones left behind