Grab 'em by the throat by listening first
If you’re like most business communicators, you are sending too many messages, you’re saying the wrong things and you’re reaching the wrong people.
Too many companies confuse dissemination with communication. They crank out a steady stream of words and images, but are deaf and blind to the impact they are having. And their brands suffer as a result of the directionless, emotionless dreck that comes from their keyboards.
Some technology companies have been the worst offenders. Certain that quickly establishing brand presence and market domination depends on rapid-fire message delivery, some have succeeded in generating awareness, but few ever have built brand equity.
Ironically, that case was made in a television commercial for Iwon.com. It's the Web portal that gives a daily, weekly and monthly prize to users. The TV spot featured a Web surfer who sarcastically claims he would turn away the chance to win big bucks because he likes the leading portal too much. He then laughs at how absurd such loyalty would be.
But we all know people who wouldn’t dream of switching from their favorite brand of soft drink, ketchup or antiperspirant if a competitive brand offered a sweepstakes.
The primary difference between these traditional brands and most technology companies is emotion. Traditional brands have it and dot.coms don’t.
We have a visceral connection to the brands we prefer. We associate important moments of our lives with the products that surround us. To some degree, the brands we prefer transcend their product attributes and benefits. Our preferred brands become a reflection of ourselves.
I don’t want to wax poetic here about ketchup, so I’ll get to the point. DPK Public Relations offers a number of specific steps you can take to establish or strengthen your brand through communication.
Decide where you want your brand to go. Do you want to be seen as young and innovative, or trusted and experienced? The brand destination will detail your organization’s goals for the brand. Of course, recognize that the world around us has a profound impact. Firestone should strive to be seen as caring and cooperative in the current environment of anger and suspicion. It must get there before hoping to reestablish trust in the quality and safety of its products.
Narrow the targets you will reach. The term “general public” shouldn’t be in your vocabulary. Create a detailed profile of your clients, prospects and the people who influence them. Go beyond gender, age, ethnicity and household income. Examine what they do, where they do it and what they care about.
Narrow the messages you will communicate. What one or two things does your target really need to understand and remember? Remember that messages often are more powerfully communicated through images, so don’t get bogged down with words unless you have to. Keep it simple and reach for emotion.
Communicate your messages consistently. It’s human nature to want to respond to the competition’s claims and describe how your product works. However, doing so means you’ll be less likely to penetrate the minds of your target audiences with the information they really need to understand and remember. You have to be disciplined.
Make “listening” a central element of your communication program. If you don’t know what emotional benefit your customers derive and your prospects need, you should stop everything and find out. You may have the latest wiz-bang Internet solution, but what does it mean for your prospect, who is stressed out, working longer and commuting further? Get inside their lives.
Adjust course to capitalize on what you “hear.” This may be evolutionary, such as adjusting your target or your message, or it may be revolutionary. It also may go beyond communication. For instance, I was on the team that helped Breuners Home Furnishings -- a national chain of furniture stores -- respond to research that showed women didn’t care for the furniture shopping experience. They introduced a more open and organized store layout, prompting more women to spend more time shopping and buying than ever before.
If you’re like most business communicators, you’re pressing the “send” button too often. I’m not suggesting you stop reaching out. But if you’re not careful, your communication could cease to be meaningful.
Make it a habit to put your ear to the ground. Find out what your customers and prospects know about you and listen to how they describe you. Doing so can help you identify what your product or service means in their lives.
That’s where mundane, throw-it-in-the-garbage communication ends and where great, grab-‘em-by-the-throat communication begins.
Dan Keeney, APR is president of DPK Public Relations, a firm dedicated to protecting and enhancing the reputation of every client. Call today: 832-467-2904.