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If you don't learn to communicate in new ways with our audiences you will cease to be relevant within 5 years.
We live in a post-modern world. Let me explain what that means.
For example, within the realm of spirituality, there is a greater awareness of 'spirituality' and a greater seeking for personal 'answers to life's questions' than ever before.
But people are no longer accepting organised scientific or religious statements of fact or faith -- they are coming to their own conclusions.
The Modern world had the scientist and expert as the definer of what is 'true'; the post-modern world has the indvidual's 'truth' as paramount; individuals are willing and able to make their own decisions about what is 'truth' for them.
So how does that impact us?
The average member of our audience no longer takes as 'gospel' marketing puke, the sort of stuff that marketing departments have traditionally vomited out like clockwork -- glossy, relentlessly upbeat, full of happy smiling faces.
The cynical Joe Punter much prefers to hear news that appears 'real' to him. Joanne Bloggs wants to hear authentic voices, not 'shiny happy people' lecturing her on what she should think or feel.
They want a Dr Phil, who tells it like it is, not 'Corporate Man' or 'Corporate Woman' who tells it like they want us to believe it is.
And you know this to be true, don't you, because it's how YOU are: consider the glossy brochures companies send you in the mail. How many envelopes actually get opened in your house? How many sales letters, newsletters and brochures are actually read as compared to tossed in the bin straight away?
How many people actually read the letter and glossy newsletter you sent out late last year about the benefit changes to your old products? Not many, I would suggest, because your customer service people got the calls from members saying they never received them, or the more honest ones sheepishly admitted they didn't read it.
But we'll read the newspaper, or catch the evening news, or listen to a trusted friend who tells us the same thing in a non-PR, non-corporate way...
Why do you think some private health insurance funds in Australia got a much easier time than predicted over their recent hike in premiums? Because the media had forewarned everyone, their membership was expecting to pay more.
So how do companies react to the new, post-modern audience?
They can do two things...
One: they can read The Cluetrain Manifesto to understand why these days communicating with an audience must be a dialogue, a conversation, not a one-way vomit.
Two: they can explore new ways of conversing with their audiences.
Firstly, The Cluetrain Manifesto: it is the first book to ever be sporned from a website. The website still exists, where you can still read the original 95 theses. These theses contain more wisdom about understanding and communicating with the post-modern audience than has ever come out of MBA courses.
As one CEO says of the book, "when people can get faster and smarter information from one another than from the companies they do business with, it may be time to close the shop. Or, maybe, it's just time to get on the cluetrain and fully understand that your customers are living, breathing creatures who want one-to-one relationships with your company, not just one-way rhetoric."
So: read this book. It explains your audiences, both internal and external.
Secondly, explore new ways of communicating with these audiences.
Wonderful new tools exist to do this and more and more companies are taking them on board. And not just hi-tech companies, who you would instinctively think *would* be the first to explore and exploit these tools.
For example, both General Motors and Ford, not small companies, have started some one-to-many conversations with their marketplace. They use 'blogs', which are new communication tools, as effective means to enter into conversations to specific groups of people. There's a blog for engine lovers, for example, where all they talk about is engines. Not everyone's cup of tea, but enthusiasts of car engines are flocking there in droves and entering into an authentic conversation with the company. When these enthusiasts are looking to buy their next car, who do you think has a prominent place in their mind?
IBM has something close to 3,000 internal blogs, where staff from around the world can converse with each other, share ideas, find answers, build a community across geographic divides.
More and more Fortune 500 companies are creating blogs as new ways of communicating with audiences that want authentic conversations, not just occasional mailmerged letters.
You could use that same technology to enter into conversation with your marketplace AND your colleagues. Imagine the ability to capture the knowledge of Robert, or Marilyn, or Gail, and have that available for everyone within the company to tap into...
And podcasting, which is a subset of blogging, is also incredibly simple - you record yourself as you talk about an issue, then post it on the intranet or internet for people to download and listen to -- which connects them to a 'real' human being. Incredibly simple to do and incredibly powerful.
Imagine recording a management meeting, then sending that recording to other managers who couldn't be there but need to know what went on and what was discussed? You don't have to send them the whole meeting, just the bit that is relevant to them. They can download it overnight at home and listen to it on the way to work.
Imagine the ability for Michelle or Bill or Eric to reach out to both their customers and their staff and let everyone know what is happening and impacting on them? Imagine how your client base will feel if they can actually talk to Michelle or Bill or Eric and voice their concerns and their praises -- and get a human voice back, not some marketing puke.
Does that mean that Michelle, or Bill or Eric, or Robert, Marilyn or Gail have to put everything else aside to spend hours a day answering emails?
Certainly not - it just means that they all, and others as well, can communicate one-to-one and at the same time one-to-many with an audience that is crying out for this human touch. Robert can blog about things in his world, and people with an interest in those issues will be able to provide instant feedback. Gail will be able to blog about things in her world, and people with an interest in those issues will be able to provide instant feedback. And more importantly, everyone will be educated and kept 'in the light' about what is happening in their interest area.
Does this mean customers will spend all day begging for you to let them know what is happening to, for example, their insurance claim and why you didn't pay out for a procedure? No, because Gail will be able to tightly manage what the conversation is about, more tightly than companies have been allowed to before without making the audience feel 'squeezed out' of the conversation.
More and more companies are 'getting it', more and more companies are exploring new ways of conversing with their audiences. YOU need to explore these new ways of conversing with your audiences before your competitors do, otherwise they will take your audiences away, because your competitors will appear (and actually BE) more 'real' and interesting.
If you don't learn to communicate in new ways with your audiences you will cease to be relevant within 5 years.
Reports I have written:
Measuring the impact and ROI of social media - for Ark Group
Making Social Media work for your business - for Ark Group
Social Media: The New Business Communication Landscape - for Ark Group
How to get started with podcasting in your organisation - for Melcrum Publishing
Contributing author to How to use social media to solve critical internal communication issues - for Melcrum Publishing
Contributing author to How to communicate with hard-to-reach employees - for Melcrum Publishing
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Why does employee communication matter?
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