Dog-mail was going to take over the world, I was sure of it.
The idea was a simple concept forged in the crucible of my six-year-old brain. Rather than go to the effort of walking downstairs to talk to my parents, I could write a message in felt-tip pen on the dog, sending him off to deliver such missives as 'when's dinner?' and 'I'd like a drink.'
Now dog-mail, like all pioneering start-ups, had its problems; not least of which being that my parents actively refused to consider the idea and removed all of the pens from my room. Undeterred, I kept refining my concept; bigger dogs, greater treat-delivery systems, longer messages. Despite the ridicule, I saw a bright, shining future, dare I even say it? A Royal Dog-mail?
The patent for dog-mail is still pending.
In communications, we think about the message and the method; what we want to say and how we want to say it.
Issues creep in when we let one overwhelm the other. We finely craft our message, making sure every word is utterly perfect, only to send it via an email nobody will read. We agonise over cutting our video, making sure every beat resonates, just for it to end up confusing the audience. Brilliant communications come from balance. So how do we ensure this?
We have to think beyond the message and the method. We need to think about what it is we're trying to achieve. We need to think about our objective.
Had six-year-old Bruce stopped to consider all he wanted to do was save himself the effort of walking downstairs, he probably wouldn't have spent countless wasted hours at the drawing board with Dog-mail. Being blinded by a message or a method isn't just an issue for children though, it can affect us all.
A client comes to us because they've been told they 'need an event'. So, when our first question is not 'what's your budget' or 'for how many people' but rather 'what are you trying to achieve?', we often catch people flat-footed. It's only by teasing out their desired outcomes, their objective, that we can examine the best solution for them. Often, it's not even an event.
What should we do if we want to deliver communications that cut through the noise of modern life? Although there is no perfect method (after all, context is king) I'd start with the following:
Get your stakeholders in a room and agree on what you're trying to achieve. If there are multiple objectives, order them by priority.
Your objectives in hand, craft a message that supports them. If you're unsure, get help.
Pick a method that supports your message and the audience you're trying to reach. Think, what would be the most effective and enjoyable way for them to receive your message?
Challenge your assumptions every step of the way. Get second opinions. Hell, get third and fourth ones. If you back up your thinking with a sound strategy, everything will feel like it's flowing towards a logical conclusion. If it's scattered and chaotic, don't be afraid to go back to the drawing board. Delays are frustrating, yes, but spending more time, effort and money on something that's fundamentally flawed is infinitely worse.
With everything in hand, our agreed objectives, our finely crafted message and our perfectly suited method, we're all done, right? Well, not quite. If we genuinely believe in the work we've done and the outcomes we've reached, we have to track the results. Without delving into the dark-arts of analytics, at its core, we want to identify the metrics that will demonstrate we've hit our objectives and monitor them. If we see data come in that shows we're missing the mark, we mustn't be afraid to re-evaluate our position and adjust if necessary. We have to track with purpose, change with confidence.
If it sounds like a lot, I'm afraid that's because it is. If it were easy, everybody would be doing it. The difficulty though shouldn't put you off; the effort you expend in getting this right will reap dividends when your work is out in the open. You'll be landing your messages with impact and clarity, provided that is, that you steer clear of dog-mail.
If you need help; we're always here.