Why Are You Telling Me This?

August 25, 2009

Too often I find myself sitting in a boring meeting, reading a dull newsletter or yawning through another pointless PowerPoint presentation.

I’m tempted to interrupt and ask, “Why are you telling me this?” Or “What do you want me to do with all this information?”

Quietly, though, I endure and amuse myself by mentally replaying a favorite scene from the movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Steve Martin, as you may recall, turns to John Candy and says, “When you’re telling these little stories, here’s a good idea:  Have a point! It makes it so much more interesting for the listener.”

Excellent advice, Steve! Effective communication must have a purpose.

As simple as that sounds, communications planning too often begins at a tactical level. In a meeting someone might say, “We need to raise awareness!” My immediate question is “WHY?” Raising awareness is a means to an end, yet we tend to think that “getting the word out” is the ultimate, end objective.

Tactics not tied to strategy only contribute to the noise and clutter.

To help me think more strategically and communicate more effectively, I developed the following chart to visually illustrate how certain questions should be asked in the right sequence.

Strategic-to-TacticalPurpose and Goal. First, why do we want to communicate? What do we want to accomplish? What measurable outcomes do we we hope for?
Target Audience. To whom are we trying to communicate? What do we know about our primary audience? What is our relationship with them? Are there secondary audiences who might be looking over the shoulder of the primary audience?
Desired Impact. Once the target audience has received our message, how do we anticipate they’ll respond? What actions do we want them to take?
Key Message. In one sentence, what single message do we want to communicate to achieve the desired results? If time permits, what secondary messages would we like to communicate?
Barriers. What perceptions or misperceptions might hinder the effective delivery of our message? Are there other barriers that might obstruct our communications?
Media. What are the most effective ways to deliver the message to the target audience? What is the right combination of traditional and new media? A newsletter? Print ads? Web site? Billboards? Twitter? Verbal presentation? Facebook fan page? A blog? News release?
Communications Activities. What specific tasks must be completed to achieve the strategic objectives? Who will assume primary responsibility? Who else will be involved? When is the deadline? What budget is available? How will we measure success?

My mantra is simply this:  Think strategically before acting tactically. Anyone with me?


10 Things I’ve Discovered about Marketing

August 20, 2009

Having earned a master’s degree in marketing, I feel confident in asserting that marketing is not really all that complicated.

When I taught marketing at a local university, the CEO of a major company invited me to speak at the planning retreat of his regional managers. He sheepishly asked, “Can you condense into 15 minutes everything you teach in a 16-week class?” Tongue-in-cheek, I replied, “Actually, I only have 15 minutes of marketing knowledge. The hard part is stretching that over an entire semester.”

In more than 20 years of working on projects and coaching others as they engaged in their own marketing endeavors, I have learned the following 10 things about marketing:

  1. Marketing is based upon common sense, though such sense is uncommon.
  2. The social media revolution is the best thing to happen to marketing in a long, long time—even though the rules for marketing success are forever changed.
  3. Old-school marketers who try to tightly control the message will become increasingly frustrated, disoriented and ultimately obsolete.
  4. If you’re not creating community and engaging people in conversations, then you’re still living in a 1.0 world—even if you are using 2.0 tools and technology.
  5. Communications comes at the end of the marketing process, not at the beginning.
  6. If you aim your message at no one in particular, don’t be surprised if no one in particular responds.
  7. Marketing will always flounder when not in pursuit of a measurable goal.
  8. If a product, service or person cannot be differentiated, it cannot be marketed.
  9. Without a quid-pro-quo exchange, you’ll never have a solid marketing program. After all, marketing is the exchange of something of value for something you need.
  10. Value can be defined only by the customer, not the company producing the product or service. (Nonprofit organizations especially have trouble with this.)

From your experience, what additional observations can you share? Can you elaborate on any of these axioms? Do you disagree with any of them?


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