You talkin to me? How to Be Relevant with Today’s Consumer

Written by on September 15, 2012 in Messaging - No comments

We all talk to ourselves. In the car. In the shower. When staring at the computer. When we’re stressed. When we think no one is looking.  Some of us do it a little too often.

We’ve all seen examples of organizations who talk to themselves a lot, too. Saying what they think is important. What they think their audiences want to hear. They seem out of touch at best, oblivious at worst.  Or maybe, they just feel threatened? As if they can’t accomplish their agenda unless they execute a control and command approach to communication.

Let’s discuss a new process/approach that can ensure your messages aren’t made just for you.

Typically, when messaging isn’t working, the reason is as simple as this: we get caught up in what we want to say instead of what they need to hear.  We pull a handful of people into a conference room and fill countless whiteboards.  We narrowly focus on “articulating our mission” or “telling our story” or “building our presentation” while losing sight of the business goals we’re trying to achieve or the audiences we’re trying to address.

We tell ourselves that we know our story best, that we are the only ones who get it. That we just need to help everyone else understand how great we are. We’re very cautious about who is involved in shaping the message. From the miles of whiteboards, we synthesize our story into a digestible format. At this point, (sometimes), we take the messaging to the people and conduct focus groups or some other type of market research. Based on that feedback, we tweak our messaging and then we go to market.

The problem is that closed-door message development just doesn’t cut in a hyper-connected, hyperactive and highly-engaged digital world.

Our approach to brand messaging must be more fluid, inclusive and organic. I see the word co-creation being used a lot. It’s definitely got a jargon ring to it, but it does capture the essence of how I feel about messaging. Earlier and ongoing involvement from key stakeholders is crucial.

There is no excuse for being irrelevant with our message in today’s environment. Our customers and prospects are standing by to help. This, of course, puts us in a more vulnerable and transparent position. But guess what? That’s the way they want it anyway!

As you’re thinking about your next big presentation, campaign or positioning statement, I encourage you to open up and engage your stakeholders early and often by:

  • Asking lots of questions. Listen to what they need, what they’re talking about, what language they are using.
  • Inviting them into the process. Let them help you shape the message instead of just reacting to it later on. It’s time to co-create.
  • Starting with their needs. Instead of trying to set your own agenda, figure out how to integrate with theirs. That’s the best path for you to accomplish your business objectives.

It’s easy to get caught up in our own heads. To dictate the brand instead of co-creating it. To ignore the feedback, insight and desires of the very people we want to reach. To mistakenly think we have the answers. To fear losing control of the brand altogether.

But if we fail to open up, engage early and often and be inclusive with the creation of our messages we’ll soon find that the conversation we’re having is only with ourselves.

Have you ever been guilty of talking to yourself?

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