Seven Questions to Ask Before You Communicate

Two primary responsibilities of a marketer are to listen and to tell a story. Without these two critical skills, a marketer will fail an organization and its consumers. Listening helps the marketer gather information; figure out what people are thinking, saying, and doing. (Both with respect to you and your product, as well as a general understanding of their behaviour, demographic, attitudes, and location). Once you have been able to gather this information, it is time to tell your story; time to tell them how you will make their lives better by fulfilling their needs better than anybody else.

The following post summarizes what I have learned about the communication process. I have broken the entire process down in a few simple questions which can you can ask yourself and apply to any method of communication. Ask yourself these questions to make sure you are communicating effectively, clearly, and strategically.

1. What are your objectives?

What is your mission? Why are you in business? What problem are you addressing? This is really the most crucial question, and one you must answer before moving any further in the process. These objectives must be strategical, SMART, and must dictate where you will place your effort. Your objective might be to change a certain behaviour, or to send a particular message – whatever it is, all your efforts must come back to these objectives and meet them.

2. What is your communication objective?

Now that you’ve identified your overall objective, what is the objective behind your specific communication? This objective is one which is a bit more specific and can address the factors which affect certain behaviour. For example if your objective is to increase your sales by 20%, your communication objective may be to change the perception that your product is inferior, or that your product provides better value than your competitors.

3. Who are you sending your message to?

This one is easy – if you haven’t identified your target market yet, get back to the drawing board. You should not be communicating without knowing who your audience is.

When considering your audience, it is also important to remember the context in which they will be hearing your message. Think about what is going on in the world when they hear your message. Think about what else could be going on – what else are they hearing, what personal situation could they be facing, what noise needs to be drowned out in order to hear your message?

4. What is your message?

This one may seem like an obvious one, but don’t forget to put yourself in your audience’s shoes. You may be giving them a lot of information that they need to filter through and process. If you want your audience to walk away with one or two key points, what are they? What are the key messages of your communication, and are they being presented clearly as such?

Think about various ways to present your message without having to explicitly state it. You can use various text styles, typefaces, colour schemes, and layouts to send a clear message. Your message may also be clearly identified simply by using a specific tone or emotion throughout your communication.

You want your message to be remembered. If your key message is clearly identifiable and relatable, there is no question you have succeeded.

5. How are you sending your message?

Now things get tactical! You must decide the most effective and relevant way to reach your audience. Do they need to hear your message? Read it? Touch it? You can choose from a variety of means, and hybrid them to come up with the perfect mix.

Paid Media

You can think of paid media as your one-way communication channel to your audience. As the name suggest, this is the media you pay for and put out; the television ads, magazine ads, posters, billboards, etc. Before selecting your media (and budget) think carefully about who is going to see it versus who needs to see it. By the way, for those of you who think “traditional media” is dying, TVB reported that individuals older than 18 spent more than 20 hours watching television per week in 2012. (http://www.tvb.ca/pages/comScoreMediaMetrixTrends_htm).

Owned Media

Owned media are methods which you own and manage – this can include things like a website, Facebook fan page, or physical spaces such as a retail store or facility of some sort. Owned media can often generate two-way communication between you and your audience. Conversation and engagement is good for your brand so the more owned media, the better.

Earned Media

When positive, earned media is probably music to every organization’s ears! Earned media is attention your organization receives from individuals outside of the company. So when videos or efforts go viral, people retweet, blog, and talk about you through various means – that is earned media; media/attention you have earned because of something you’ve done. Again, when its positive, brands love it. When its negative, brands should work on some form of damage control (more on that next).

6.  How do you mitigate risk?

The success of every plan is in a strong Plan B. This is another point in the communication process where, if you don’t have an answer, its time to go back to the drawing board. You may encounter a variety of challenges along the process and it is important to identify potential risk, and mitigation strategies.

Potential risk could be the misinterpretation of your message – how will you avoid this risk and if you encounter it, how will you manage and control the damage done?

7. How do you evaluate success?

Remember when I asked your objectives? Your objectives are your measuring stick for success.  Analyze your key findings and results and weigh them against your objectives. Keeping your objectives SMART make this fairly easy to weigh against.

And there you have it. 7 easy questions to answer which will help ensure the success of your communication plan. These are the 7 easy steps to successful communication – if you don’t have an answer for all 7, do not proceed. Sit back and think about your objectives, and plan accordingly.

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