RobertsonComm CEO Scott Robertson in action!
A somewhat euphemistic way of describing an individual who has no filter has always been “Oh…she’s very…direct.” And of course we mean something else when that is said. But I will submit to you that as we sit here in 2017, communications is evolving and a more direct communications approach is going to be the winner.
We’ve lived through “the spin years” where corporate communications just couldn’t be any more clever with the ways they said things. Making every first letter match up and finding three words of about the same length that start with the same letter — Whoohooo I can play around with the alphabet. Look at me! I am SOOOO clever! So much, in fact, that wikipedia has an entry for Marketing Speak and it says:
“Marketing speak is a related label for wording styles used to promote a product or service to a wide audience by seeking to create the impression that the vendors of the service possess a high level of sophistication, skill, and technical knowledge. Such language is often used in marketing press releases, advertising copy, and prepared statements read by executives and politicians”
LOL. There’s our legacy folks, right there. A bunch of BS language shoved into everything and used to promote and create the impression that the vendors know what they are talking about. I seriously hope it’s not too late to become a pro bass player. At least people respect that. …Drummers, not so much 🙂
WHY do marketers (and the people who employ them/us) think this is ok? I can think of a few reasons including:
- Lack of good teaching re: principles and practices of MODERN (not 10-15 years ago, but right now) marketing.
- Growing up in the corp world doing it and don’t see any reason to change because the emperor is wearing some FINE clothes!
- Audiences don’t push back loudly enough. For example, when Roger Goodell, commissioner of the NFL, speaks anywhere, he is greeted by a hail of boos because NFL fans do not trust him and pretty much see through his many “prepared statements” through the years.
- Communicators don’t feel they have permission to speak any differently.
Now that last one is big. So right here, right now, I’d like to go ahead and give each of you permission to create direct and non-marketing-speak communications for your companies. Don’t make your stuff just sound good with the right “marketing sounding” flow, make it actually communicate something and connect with people and be about the things they need, not what you need to sell this month. That is the real job we’re supposed to be doing.
And I just hope that years from now, the wikipedia entry for Marketing Speak will say — Note: this practice was abandoned in the first part of the 21st century when marketers FINALLY woke up. Let’s do better out there!
The purpose of communications is to convey meaning from one life form to another.Need to warn another caveperson that a big honkin’ Velociraptor is coming up FAST and ready to chow down? That’s a great time for extremely DIRECT communication like “DUDE…RUN!!!” The first communicators really got it done.
But somewhere in the mystical magical world of getting more “evolved” and “older” we just start spouting out stuff that we COMPLETELY understand, but the audience has no idea what we’re saying. Tech companies are REALLY guilty of this and it comes from just knowing your stuff SO well that you assume EVERYONE knows it too. Well, remember what Samuel L. Jackson said about making an assumption? (You’re making an ass out of “u” and “mption.”)
And I’ve found that professional communicators can be the worst communicators of all when it comes to this. Oh, we find super smart and clever ways to make all the words start with the same letter, rhyme and just SOUND really good but often, an audience says to themselves — Uh…what? Chomp. Too late, kid.
What’s missing is that little thing I like to call audience empathy. It’s actually just putting YOURSELF in THEIR place and now reading it and saying “I wonder if they’re gonna get it?” If the purpose of communication is to convey meaning between life forms then taking a second to determine whether they are going to make sense of it seems logical to me.
And YET…how many things do you see and read daily and they just become NOISE because there is ZERO meaning?
We’re all communicators and need to make our point. Make sure that your personal and corporate communications do not sound like someone in the marketing department created them. Be clear, not clever. Be factual, not fluffy and above all be ABOUT THEM, not about YOU. I see it every day and I just know we can do better if we think about it and just try.
And what THAT means is — think before you send it and make sure the MEANING is there first and foremost. You understand, right?
In the movie Jurassic Park, Jeff Goldblum’s character Dr. Ian Malcolm makes a miraculous observation when he says “your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could (make dinosaurs) that they didn’t stop to think if they should.” Ahhh the difference between can and should is important when making dinosaurs — and it’s equally important in marketing and communications.
You see, back in prehistoric times (before the Internet) yes, the 1990’s, marketing used to cost money. You had to invest some resources, buy things, have things printed, mailed and THAT put your skin in the game. Thus, there was a consideration step to determine whether this target was appropriate, etc. I remember it well.
But today, thanks to technology, many believe that marketing is “free” and why send one free e-mail (or freemail) when you can send one million? Why indeed!
I will submit to you that marketing still costs something — your credibility, your reputation, your customer relationships—and you put these very valuable items on the line every time you decide to communicate. Believe it.
Marketing’s guiding light is something we haven’t seen in since dinosaurs roamed the earth—EMPATHY. A little bit of empathy is like a character from the end of the JurrassicPark movie going back in time coming into the lab at the beginning of the movie and saying, “uhhh…guys…maybe we shouldn’t be doing this.”
…And having seen how the movie ends, (spoiler alert: most of the humans and all of the scientists die horribly…) I think we can all agree that thinking things ALL the way through before you just execute them leads to better business outcomes.
My fellow Missourian Mark Twain wrote and said a lot of great things, but my all-time favorite is “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” Man, is that ever true regarding marketing and communications.
And what you know quickly becomes what you knew as the profession continuously evolves. So with that in mind, let’s do a little bit of marketing mythbusting.
Myth 1: The customer wants to hear from us. They do not. Their lives are 100 percent complete without you and your message. Knowing that and assuming that from the beginning puts the responsibility back on you to EARN your way into their hearts and minds and that comes from creativity and meeting their needs (yes, especially the emotional and psychological ones) like no one else can!
Myth 2: Our metrics look good so we’re reaching people. Digital marketers are in love with their “metrics” like web visits, click throughs etc. But, here’s a little digital reality check for you — more than half of all Internet traffic comes from bots (programs designed to visit web sites many times and artificially inflate numbers) So here’s my question back to you — is it real? What’s real? How do you know? I like to measure one metric — sales. As a business owner, that’s the only one that really counts and bots and algorithims don’t affect it.
Myth 3: Automating our marketing is a good thing. Man, there are lots of “solutions” out there to help companies send out more garbage which will get caught in spam filters or be instantly deleted or blocked. Marketing doesn’t need an automated way to send out more things more frequently — we need to send out better things less frequently and build LONG-TERM customer relationships through our communications. That is the actual game here, folks.
Challenging dumb myths is one way we can all improve marketing and the marketing profession. I advise my clients to use marketing & communications very carefully and always be aware of the sharp edges that can come back to cut your own brand (while you’re busy cutting through the clutter).
Knowing your fundamentals — why are we special? what emotional core are we trying to hit? and tempering that with a good deal of empathy for the audience and putting their needs above yours makes communications tolerable and maybe even great. And missing those things adds to the garbage pile, brings about more blocking, more regulations and more controls on a profession that has trouble controlling itself.
Don’t Just Do More, Do Better.