Yet Another Part of Today’s Communications Plan: Choosing the Right Channels

This series exploring each section of the contemporary communications plan has forced me to think deeply about the way the world of image, reputation and visibility has changed in the last few years. One of the greatest changes has been in the number and quality of communication channels.

When broadband made audio and video possible, and platforms such as Facebook and YouTube became widely used, the communications game changed. Now, if it was possible, it was expected. We quickly learned we had to use (or at least explore) those channels or be left behind by competition or find the users themselves taking over the conversation about our companies, people and brands.

But, it also is not possible to do everything. How do you know where to put your energy?

Your choice of channel depends on who you are trying to reach, naturally. But, your decisions also must take into account your appetite and ability to manage interactive discussions, the complexity of your stories and messaging, and your capacity for developing content.

Now that the world has gotten used to such a rich and robust communications environment, it is a good time to pause and think. Which channels actively engage your audience in the way that you need and that will have active influence? (Active influence means you are causing a change and subsequent action. Passive influence means you may introduce them to new thinking but it doesn’t cause them to act – yet).

Three things to think about:

1. Start with the basics. Consider how your audience likes to get information. Through video, like YouTube? Via graphics, like infographics? Through editorial, such as peer-reviewed journals, traditional editorial media or other? Experientially, such as demonstrations at trade shows? From experts, like attending panels, speeches and other speaking venues? From their peers?

2. Make a list of all the channels that are possible. Traditional media outlets (trade, business, consumer), social media channels, industry trade shows and speaking venues, like TED, community events, and organizations, special events (that you organize), direct mail, e-mail, books, and more.

3. What do these channels require to be effective for you? Robust content in the right form and the right amount of interaction is key to making a channel work well. Be realistic about your capacity and resources. Identify where you may need more or where there are opportunities to remerchandise existing content.

This section does not need to cover every channel you may end up using. But, it should give some direction as to where you are going to spend your time and give guidance around what you will need to produce and manage.

TEDTalk: The Problem With Stories

Professor and economist Tyler Cowen spoke about storytelling at TEDxMidAtlantic from late 2009. He talks about the problems with stories. There are some unique things in here, such as focusing on the stories where no one has an incentive to sell something. (Cowen holds the Holbert C. Harris Chair of economics as a professor at George Mason University and is co-author of the popular economics blog Marginal Revolution.)


Does Your Story Sell? Does it Give Answers?

I stumbled across this post from JustSell on the “8 objections” to buying whatever it is you are selling. There is an interesting correlation between how well your business story “sells” and these common objections.

First, do you know when people are “objecting” to your story? Listening is the first thing to do when you begin to speak. Simple cues like eyes glazing over or darting around the room, fidgeting, and attempts to “escape” are all clues you’ve either hit them at the wrong time or what you are saying is not resonating. If you are giving a presentation, do you even notice these things?

Secondly, I’ll address one of the objections from the Just Sell article: Lack of perceived value in the product or service.

In Four Leaf’s formula for a powerful message, we talk about messaging being “compelling” (in addition to being differentiating and appropriate or truthful). If your audience isn’t riveted to your story you are 1) either telling your story to the wrong audience or 2) you aren’t focusing on what engages them. If they aren’t engaged, they won’t see the relevance and certainly won’t ascertain the value you hold for them.

In today’s world of storytelling and messaging you will need to tell them what they need, up front. No longer can you hide behind the curtain of “buy my services and products and then I’ll give you the answer you are seeking.” Rather, in today’s pay-it-forward  market you will need to at least give them a taste of what they will get from you. You cannot prove value otherwise today.

A long list of credentials, past client successes and case studies are terrific. But, they aren’t the only thing that will “sell” your story. You need to give away some samples to get them to buy.

Last week I blogged about TED talks. They are terrific presentations to model around being compelling and getting across value. Notice how often they give you answers. Notice how often they are compelling. Notice how often they hold real value.

What is Your TED Talk?

You would have to be living under a rock to not know about TED. This organization whose tag line is simply “ideas worth spreading” means to bring “riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world.”

Each talk is usually less than 20 minutes long. Most of you would never even notice they are that long, they are that good.

TED is a pretty cool idea and has gained such popularity that TED organizations have cropped up all around the world. But other than showcasing terrific presentations and speeches, the very idea of TED itself can be useful.

If you were asked to give a TED talk next week, what would you do? More importantly—what is your big TED idea? What idea would be the centerpiece of a talk you could give that would be considered riveting and brand you a remarkable person? Consider starting there next time you have to address your board of directors or even your boss.

Design your own TED talk.

Great TED talks:

Feel free to share your favorite TED talks here. Or, perhaps you’ve given one yourself. We’d love to hear it.