I had the opportunity to speak to a business communications undergrad class recently and it was a bit of mixed bag experience. I loved being able to share real stories and examples of how the skills they were learning worked out in the business world. I was saddened with how little they seemed to care though. It’s a bit of a paradox even a week later. I’m still struggling with this because as self identified active social media users, future job seekers, and hopeful entrepreneurs how could they not care about building the skills that make you an effective communicator? Literally, every business interaction can be boiled down to your ability to communicate an idea well enough that it creates buy-in for the people (or the person) you’re interacting with.
Blew my mind.
So in today’s post I want to share a few of the points I shared with that class because they apply to anyone that’s trying to build a brand, business, applying for their next job, or really just trying to get anyone to care.
1. Knowing your audience is super important. When you’re trying to communicate an idea, you have to think about how your audience likes to be communicated with. Where is their attention going? This includes the words that you choose, the expectations you’re trying to manage, and even their geographic location. How can you expect to create impact, enough to inspire someone to take some kind of action, if you’re message never gets understood? Worse is if you’re trying to communicate a message that no one in your target audience even cares about. When you’re trying to get your content (or copy) seen and connect with your customers you have to keeps at least these things in mind: their experience, any technical ability, skills they have/need, seniority or tenure, their age, location (both online and IRL), and any other psychosocial demographics that might be important. You can’t expect or even attempt to build a relationship with your audience if you don’t take the time to get to know them.
2. Consistency matters. You can’t expect one blog post, one cold sales email, one mailer, or one Facebook post to create any real traction for you. It takes a special mix of factors for something to go viral and odds are the last thing you created didn’t have it. That’s ok though! It’s ok because you’ve committed to showing up everyday in your business to share what you believe in with the people who you believe need you. If your goal is to get your audience to know, like, and trust you then you should be taking advantage of every opportunity you have to share content that creates value for them. Consistency also allows for better engagement and creates opportunities for you to get to know what your audience really needs, how they like to be communicated with, and how to better serve them going forward.
3. In general, people are very egocentric. I’m going to generalize here but, we only care about the stuff that directly affects us most of the time. When someone is buying something from you they care less about you and more about how their lives are going to change after interacting with you. Sounds a little glass half empty but it’s pragmatic.Understanding this can help you really connect with people. That means all of your copy, all of your messaging, even your future "About Me" pages better be tuned to station WIIFM - What’s In It For Me. Consumers want to know that you are a trusted resource, that they got to know you, and like you, but after that it's all about how you're going to provide them value. Your audience is going to be looking to see what their life is going to look like after engaging with you. I've seen a lot of businesses go from being almost out of business to thousands of percent in margin just by spinning the point of view and burying their own egos a bit. This isn’t manipulative, it’s facing the reality that people are bombarded daily with all kinds of messaging and your job is to position yourself well enough to warrant someone to give you a second look. You don’t do that by talking about yourself all the time.
4. Telling a good story takes practice. Telling good stories is part of the essence of getting people to connect with each other. Unfortunately it’s not a skill that most people can just “wing”. You may have big ideas for your brand or business but if you’re not taking the time to thoughtfully craft messages that connect authentically with people then you’ll just leave your audiences confused. Great stories connect us, help us make sense of the world, and communicate our values and beliefs. They tap into our emotions and makes us think and feel in ways that lists of product features and benefits can’t. Being able to frame your story in a way that’s clear and authentic creates a real competitive advantage for you. In a real life application it can be the difference between actually connecting with someone at a networking event and having them so disengaged that they excuse themselves from the conversation before you’re even done talking. (I’ve seen it happen and it’s brutal to watch.)
Those were the big points I shared that day. Well those and the fact that mastering social media is a necessity these days if you plan on building any kind of brand for yourself. I did leave them with this little summary. At the heart of business communications you’re really trying to do three things:
If you do those three things, regardless of your professional situation, you’ll position yourself as a trusted asset with any audience. Oh and I also shared this link to a recent marketing study by an organization called re:create highlighting the real dollars changing hands because of the reach of social media and those that can master telling great stories and connecting with people.