Ah yes, Bob Dylan lyrics from the ‘60s . . . and appropriate for today. Since the beginning of the year, we’ve seen more organizations, of all sizes, openly acknowledge that they are facing a new set of challenges. We at Kinetics are engaged in two strategic planning projects, and we are experiencing this rethinking firsthand. As we go through our discovery processes and reach out to these clients’ stakeholders, they too say they are reconsidering their planning strategies.
Some of this can be attributed to the Pandemic. More than 8 billion people had to dramatically change the way they lived, loved, and learned, changing the world in the process. And it’s not just the result of rapid adoption of technology – from telemedicine, to remote working to online shopping. It also includes a reevaluation by employees on how they want to work, and by employers on how they want their employees to work for them. The traditional 9-to-5 model is no longer applicable and appropriate for all industries and organizations – Huzzah to that.
But there is more: It’s the ascendency of Gen Xers and Millennials as the major drivers of today’s economy, and the waning influence of the more consumerist Baby Boom generation. We’re looking at a ton of new research that shows how Gen Xers and Millennials have different priorities than Boomers – they are more into experiences vs. possessions; more inclined to consume brands that reflect their views on social justice and the environment; and put more trust in what peers say vs. institutions. For example, we recently came across a study by 5WPR, in which 73 percent of those surveyed between the ages of 35 and 54 said: “It’s important to me that companies I buy from align with my values.”
All this is against a backdrop of the evolution of social media. While there are many positive attributes to social media, its widespread use has fostered a new type of conversation that up to now was frowned upon. Social media has normalized the outrageous. It has tapped into our psyche, and it triggers a dopamine buzz that very few of us can quit. (And, if you are under the age of 30, there is a good chance you have at some point tried to figure out how to get a million views and a thousand likes.) It makes it very challenging for a brand to push out messaging in a media that resembles the Tower of Babel.
This all may seem depressing at first, but I don’t think we are in a “doom or gloom” scenario. In fact, now is a great time for an organization to make significant changes to their product and service offerings, brand image, and service delivery. A mentor said to me once, “you can’t make money in stagnant market.” Well, if you ascribe to that theory, then it’s surely worth taking advantage of these turbulent times. If everything is changing, then you can make changes as well. You can leapfrog the competition, or enter new markets, and appeal to a different set of audiences.
I certainly don’t think that going back to a pre-pandemic model makes good business sense. As Dylan wrote at the end of the song:
The order is rapidly fadin’
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’.
Most times when communicators talk about “Integrated Communications” they are referring to a mix of media and message delivery. However, integrated communications should also include a mix of communication techniques or, as we like to call them “Persuasion Techniques.”
There are six techniques. We try to deploy several on behalf of our clients, because if you stick to one or two, your communication sounds monotonous.
Now, not every technique will resonate with your audience. As part of the strategic planning process, you need to consider which ones are more effective apropos to your audience segments. For example, “Appeal of Authority” works well among audiences in organizations with chains of command. On the other hand, more independent minded audiences will be more persuaded by “Social Proof/Evidence.”
|Appeal of Authority||Important people and those in authority can help make communications more convincing.|
|Repetition||If information is presented consistently and in repeating patterns, people will remember it and believe it.|
|Social Proof/Evidence||People will look to facts and proof points from peers to help support their own actions and opinions.|
|Commitment||Once committed to a path, people are more likely to follow it than to make a change.|
|Bandwagon||People prefer to associate with like-minded groups and to feel as if they belong.|
|Trust||When people trust an organization and brand, they are more likely to be persuaded.|
So, audit of your comms efforts. See which persuasion techniques you’ve been using. And, then decide if you have the right mix given your target audiences. You might find, like life, a little variety may spice your messaging up.
If you are interested in following up, feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com!
Last week we discussed the need to make fundamental, not just operational, changes in this transformative 2020 moment.
So many companies and nonprofits aren’t thinking that way, believing they can’t make big, bold changes to their business model. But while they think they’re playing it safe, in reality they aren’t. By trying to squeeze by, they are going to face the ultimate big, bold business decision: “Can I stay open, or must I shut down?”
Being persistently innovative is the best way to survive. A great example of is that of the humble Post-it Note (courtesy of consultant/author Nick Skillicorn). In 1968, 3M’s Spencer Silver was developing an ultra-strong adhesive for use in aircraft construction. Instead, a mistake led to the weak and new adhesive called acrylate co-polymer microspheres. The microspheres had the unique characteristics of being incredibly strong and sticking at a tangent to the surface, which meant the substance could be peeled away without residue and reused.
After the initial discovery, 3M leaders didn’t see value in a nonstick adhesive. Not until 1977 did the company finally test it for real-world sales. Hardly anyone bought it. Fortunately, the new products laboratory manager didn’t give up so easily and thought the product didn’t sell because it was new and people didn’t yet understand its value. (Is this your situation?)
So a year after the 1978 flop, 3M tried one more time by sending out large numbers of free samples to companies to try, then tracking how many of them ordered. Almost 90% of those given samples ordered the product, which finally showed there was demand. The rest is history.
Translated to our topic at hand: What you need in this environment is both innovation and persistence. Re-evaluate your consumer. Rethink your business model. You can’t assume old beliefs still hold and that you still know what customers need and want.
That’s a heavy lift. Here are three pieces of advice to help get you through it:
- Be sure you’re asking the right questions. Don’t be timid. A lot of times we skirt some of the big questions because it’s easier to get along and not cause a stir. Your questions need to cause a stir. This might mean scrutinizing cherished practices or no longer offering products and services that have been around for generations.
- Do the math. Don’t let sentimentality get in the way of making a decision. One lesson I’ve learned from successful organizations is the sanctity of clean and accurate data. We’ve all heard the saying “garbage in, garbage out”—you don’t want your business to be taken out with the trash.
- Be true to your values. Think about what sets you apart, your added value and what values you bring to what you do. Another way to think of it: Look at your friends. Why are they your friends? Not because they live nearby but because you share their values and have a lot in common. You’re not clones. You express your values in different, original ways that keep you engaged. Likewise, your clients come to you because they like what you provide; they like the way you do business.
There’s so much more, but customized guidance is always most useful. Contact Michael Tinati at firstname.lastname@example.org and the able staff of Kinetics MarCom for big-picture analysis of your audience or customers, prospects, and best next steps.
Let’s innovate, persist, and prosper together.