Having a great product and communicating it well to the right people is not enough. As humans, we are programmed to place events and our own actions into the context of the world as we see it. We look for purpose in everything we do.
I have spent years as a communications professional helping businesses to shout about the features and benefits of their fantastic products and services. I have produced acres of text online and in print proclaiming the first, the fastest, the smartest, describing all those clever technical details and useful customer applications, and channelling this magic material towards well-targeted audiences. And it is all been good (or most of it anyway).
But what I am now coming to understand after working in communications for more than 20 years, running my own business, advising others and recently studying for an MSc at Aston Business School, is this: having a great product and communicating it well to the right people is not enough.
The act of doing business requires the engagement of individuals on either side of a transaction and throughout the value chain. As humans, we are programmed to place events and our own actions into the context of the world as we see it. We look for the purpose in everything we do.
The author and writer Simon Sinek* explains it well when he talks about the need for businesses to ‘Start with Why’. Whatever it is we are offering, he says, we need to be clear about our purpose before we focus on product. Or as Howard Behar** of Starbucks Coffee famously put it put, ‘It’s not about the coffee’.
In this age of transparency, when information flows fast through so many digital channels, communications is about values and influence, not centralised control of a top-down message. Clarity and authenticity are required first to gain the trust of others before we can engage with them as individuals.
I think of this as having to earn the right to tell people how great our products and services are before expecting them to listen. It is the basis for my model for Communications in 3D, which puts Why? before How? and What?, with consistency and integrity in three dimensions:
Leadership at any level, be it of people, markets or ideas, begins not with strategy or management training, but with passion and purpose. To be attractive to those we wish to engage with we must show that purpose running through everything we do. We need to articulate it clearly, agree it wholeheartedly and share it willingly. We must be seen to live it. If we can do that, then others will want to join in.
If you’d like to talk further about building a communications strategy in 3D then drop me a line. I’d love to hear from you.
* Simon Sinek (2009) How great leaders inspire action TED Talk available at: https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action
** Howard Behar (2009) It’s not about the coffee available at: http://howardbehar.com/its-not-about-the-coffee