Sunday, August 13, 2006

Important to whom?

Discussing Seth Godin's analysis of the successful communication of new ideas, Guy Kawasaki says "Notice that ideas never spread because they are important to the originator."


I tried for years to get that concept across to my PR clients, but they simply refused to believe that something important to them wasn't important -- or even mariginally interesting -- to the audience they were targeting.

I remember trying to get one CEO to articulate the core message of an article I was supposed to be ghostwriting for him. "What is it we want your readers to come away knowing?" I asked. He thought a moment and replied "We want them to know that I'm very intelligent."

(I still can't believe he said that.)

At another company, a senior executive invited a couple of us to a brainstorming session to decide how to communicate a particular policy to customers. The company had tried brochures, letters, and posters, but there had been virtually no change in customer behavior. The latest plan was to launch an expensive newsletter to get the policy message, and others, to the intended audience. We asked if it was possible that customers had ignored the previous communications not because the vehicles were wrong but because the policy message itself was boring -- in which case it was likely that they'd ignore the newsletter version of it as well. I'm afraid that one of us pointed out that if something truly interesting happened at the company -- such as the CEO being caught in a compromising position with a summer intern in the parking garage -- 50 percent of the customers would somehow manage to hear about it within 24 hours.

Nervous laughter. And, of course, they went ahead and launched the (terminally boring) newsletter.

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