I find myself saying this over and over again. The temptation for organizations is to just keep creating more and more messages while sending them across the most efficient and established models for the organization. The fatal flaw is in that logic is that the consumer controls the conversation now, not the organization. That means I can “mute” you, and you can’t do anything about it.
The lies organizations buy into are …
- They constantly need to have something new to say.
- They intuitively know the communication preferences of others.
- They believe everyone likes to be reached in the same way.
None of these are true. In fact, the expectations for organizations to provide curated, specific, and relevant messages is growing every day. As consumers, we are transferring the interactions we have with companies like Amazon.com and Apple.com to all businesses, organizations, and causes we interact with.
While the intuition of most leaders isn’t entirely off (breaking through the clutter is vital to success), I’m becoming more convinced that new ideas aren’t necessarily the only thing what people want. Rather, they crave compelling content that provides a call to action which reaches them using their preferred or native habits of content consumption (e.g. iPhone, iPad, Blog, Email, etc.).
A Few Eamples …
A nonprofit might depend solely on direct mail (and rightly so given its sustained performance) but never consider the impact direct mail is having on online interactions. Some studies even suggest that traditional direct mail is driving online donations and transactions. If I only give online and you don't give me that option, you lose.
A church might be launching a new program and wants to let the community know about it. Only, they do this once a month. The church thinks that “new” will attract the prospect. Maybe. I tend to think it will just underline how confused you are about your purpose and identity. If I’m the prospect and I’m confused, you lose.
A business may be trying to stand out from the competition. They think talking slower, louder, and longer will help them reach more people. In reality, this only makes them feel good about themselves. The buyer is not a necessary evil; he or she should be the object of your affection. If I don't feel like you care about me, you lose.
The problems created by sending too many new messages …
- Not everyone in the organization has time to assimilate them into their strategy and planning.
- Not enough time is spent testing and refining the idea to determine whether or not it’s a success or not.
- The prospect will shut you down immediately if you don’t take steps to establish trust.
Always presenting yourself as something new—running after a new cause, objective, or product—doesn’t establish trust. It’s the same thing as if you went out with the same person multiple times and each time your date changed their name. You’d begin to wonder what’s going on and what you don’t know.
Fewer messages means more time for …
- Refinement of ideas, concepts, and calls to action.
- Ownership of vocabulary in your space.
- Expectations to be set that refine and protect the relationship with the intended audience (e.g. client, prospect, etc.)
- Expansion of distribution channels based on audience segmentation and preferences, not what's comfortable for the organization.
Trust is earned by being consistent, clear, and specific over time.
Building trust is about being the same person in multiple situations. Building trust is about creating a confidence that who you are today is who you will be tomorrow. Building trust is what content strategy is all about.
The landscape of organizational communication and market engagement is becoming more complex. The good news is you don’t always need something new to say to everyone. Your greatest opportunity lies in your ability to customize, focus, and curate your messaging across a variety of segments that reflect the specific characteristics of your target audience.
What’s more important to you and your organization: revealing your next BIG idea or nurturing the relationship you have with your target audience?
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