Tag Archives: Storytelling

Communication Is Two-Way

photo credit: bengrey via photopin cc

photo credit: bengrey via photopin cc

Communicating is more than just “telling”.                

Sometimes I get discouraged because I believe that people tend to think that their responsibility for communication is solely in the dissemination or, “telling” part of the communication.

I am discouraged because there are so many more vehicles than ever to use for delivering information; as a result the problem becomes exponential in size.
This is probably reinforced by having a communications industry that is closely linked to media, which helps make “broadcast” the most logical synonym for “communication” in the public mind.

You are 100% responsible for communication.
I recall a time when management at the company where I worked was fond of telling us that “each of us was 100% responsible for communication”.  I had a sense of confusion and frustration thinking that if I had 100 %, therefore total, responsibility for communicating, then what responsibility did the other party or parties have?  Zero?  It just didn’t make sense to me.
(I admit that yes, maybe I think too much, but words and concepts are important to me.  Besides, if I didn’t have this predilection, what would I write about?)
After many years of pondering, lots more business experience, working in Marketing where it is an important requirement to identify with the consumer and champion their needs within the organization, and working in Public Relations where you work to be heard, here is my 100% rule.

Your responsibility: 50% telling and 50% making sure you are heard.
You have 100% responsibility for communication.  50% of that responsibility is  for telling, and 50% of that for ensuring that it is heard.

The telling part is pretty easy.  Just fire off the e-mail, communiqué, press release, blog post, tweet, make your presentation or say your piece.  There’s 50% of your responsibility discharged!

But how can you be responsible for ensuring that what you have to tell is heard?   This is the challenging part of the 50%.  Challenging, but very do-able.

You need to present the information in a way that helps make sure the audience wants/needs to hear it.

Know your audience.  Understand who you are addressing with your communication.  The better you can answer this question, the higher the success rate in ensuring they hear your message.

Make it relevant.  By knowing who you are talking to, you can tailor the information so that it meets their informational needs. Use a tone that resonates with them.  Make sure the words you use are in their vocabulary.

Make it interesting – entertaining even.  I have noticed a lot of articles recently about “story-telling” and “storyfying”.  The point is to provide information as a story or within a story; to use a traditional beginning, middle and end format along with “conflict” to add interest.  Telling a story about your product/service, or using your product/service in a story helps convey news in an appealing manner.

Make it valuable.  People appreciate learning something, receiving new information or getting information that specifically relates to them or to their own particular needs.  When you know your audience, your consumer or consumer, you understand what will be helpful to them or how to convey information in a helpful manner.

Engage.  Communication should be engaging.  It should get people interested, curious, motivate them to reply, to share, to act.  Engineer your communication so that it is oriented to doing something.  Ask a question, highlight an issue, suggest an action.

Suggested guidelines:

– Take the information or news that you want to convey.  Ask yourself the following questions:

– Who are my customers/consumers/clients?

– What about this information is most important/relevant to my customers/consumers/clients?

– Why would my customers/consumers/clients find this important?

– How can I make this information most interesting/relevant to my customers/consumers/clients?

– Put yourself in the role of the recipient of the communication.  What would you want to hear?

– Why?  How could the information be conveyed to best engage ?

– What questions might this information provoke? What are the answers?

– What environment might be most conducive to ensuring my message is heard/appreciated?

By doing this, you are assuming the 50% responsibility for guaranteeing your message gets heard.
Now having 100% responsibility for communication makes sense to me.


Originally published August 8, 2012 on mononews.

If Content is King, Context is Queen

Photo credit: hurley_gurlie182 from morguefile.com

Photo credit: hurley_gurlie182 from morguefile.com







So you’ve got a handle on content, which I’ve taken the liberty of defining as the fusion of information and entertainment.
Great!  You’re halfway there.  Yes, I’m sorry to have to advise you that content is only a part, albeit and important one, of the necessary effort.
In review
Ideally, content is a story.  The story should have a beginning, middle and an end. It should include a conflict, which is successfully resolved.
Good content is a story with substance, appreciated and/or valued by its intended audience; a meaningful and significant story, which answers a need or provides relevant, useful information.  Strong content is read because it resonates, interests or captivates its audience.
If content is the story, and must be compelling, then equally important is the setting where it appears – the context.
Context is where content lives
Context 1: the parts of a discourse that surround a word or passage and can throw light on its meaning.  2: the interrelated conditions in which something exists or occurs: environment, setting ‘the historical context of the war’
Context is where the content exists or lives, the vehicle or platform where it is featured, its environment.  It is selecting the appropriate network, channel or vehicle where thecontent is provided.
Your content should fit the environment as if it was its “natural habitat”, an environment frequented/popular with its intended consumer.
If your content is not in the appropriate environment i.e. not where your target is hanging out or looking for it, then it’s missing the mark.  It is ineffective, shooting blanks.  It means it is unlikely to be read, shared or commented on, and will probably not generate  dialogue or initiate a relationship, which are the objectives of producing content.
The ideal context, because you have total control of the experience, is your own website.  Here are some examples of great content delivered on target-specific websites.
However, not everyone has the resources to create their own environment.
Cookie-cutter content won’t work in every context
Many companies generate content without considering how it will be used, perceived or received.  They use exactly the same material across all Social Media channels automatically.  Perhaps they just don’t realize each network has a specific reason for being and as a result, is a unique environment.
The obvious examples are the “visual” sites, such as Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube, where content needs to be pictures or video, versus text.
Regarding text, however, How-To or DIY articles may be ideal on Facebook, but LinkedIn’s professional orientation makes it an ideal environment for business issues and career advice.  Google+ is a little more a blend of the two, but depends on the group or hangout.
An article on personal finance may be an equally appropriate topic for both Facebook and LinkedIn, however given the distinct difference in the target audience’s orientation and interests, the format, tone and references should be different to be appropriate for the professional orientation of LinkedIn versus the personal, casual atmosphere of Facebook.
Spend some time understanding the different networks you are considering.  Get to know the interests, language and etiquette of each.  Ensure there is a natural fit between you and the audience.
In order to understand the context to best frame the content, ask yourself:
Why is my target audience here?
What is my target audience doing here – what is their interest, activity or purpose?
When is my target audience here?
What are other companies doing/offering and what does it look like?
To be successful, all content must be consumer centric.                                                              This means that when content is produced, it must be produced with the end user/consumer/target audience in mind.  It needs to respond to their wants and needs.  An important way to understand the consumer is to consider where they are hanging out and why.  By understanding the context, the appropriate content can be provided.
It important to remember the reason for doing what you’re doing, creating and providing content.
The purpose is to create a relationship, namely building awareness, trust and interest so that you have a place in the mind, and hearts, of your audience.

Originally published on May 23, 2013 on mononews