The first place people often look when they aren’t getting the hoped-for response from their communication efforts is the medium. Should we try an e-blast instead of running an ad? How about replacing our seminars with webcasts? Maybe we should set up a Facebook page? How about a series of online brochures to attract more customers/members/supporters….?
Typically, however, the more time we spend evaluating the merits of a specific communications tool, the less impact our efforts have on the bottom line. Instead, it would be more helpful to address three common communication obstacles.
Obstacle 1: not knowing the audience
A communication can only be effective if the audience receives and understands the message. This means we have to start with understanding who the target audience is. What are their relevant geographic (place of residence/ work), demographic (age, income, occupation, etc) and psychographic (lifestyle, values, personality, etc) characteristics? What do they need from us? What are their media preferences?
Obstacle 2: not knowing the attitudes of the audience
If we don’t know how these audiences feel about our organization, work, products, services, then we can’t address their beliefs, expectations or motivations. Are they aware? Negative? Positive? Indifferent? It’s only by understanding their attitudes that we can effectively communicate messages to which they are more likely to be receptive – and thereby influence their opinions and behaviours toward what we have to offer.
Obstacle 3: not considering the source of the message
Finally, the source of the communication has to be credible in order to influence an audience. Consider the results of the Edelman 2010 Trust Barometer, which found that the most credible individuals to provide information about a company are academics, experts and financial or industry analysts. Least believable? Government officials and employees. The most credible sources of information cited were stock/industry analyst reports and articles in business magazines The lowest? Social networking sites and ads.
Always consider who is delivering the message and whether the audience considers this person or source to be knowledgeable and trustworthy.
By addressing these common obstacles to effective communications, we can change what people know. We can influence what they think and feel, and how they act toward our organizations, our products and services. And that can support the bottom line.