Working backwards

How often do you hear a speech, read a blog, watch a commercial, or peruse an email blast and say, huh??  What is this about? Or, what does this have to do with me? Keep that confusion in mind the next time you need to communicate. The point is, you’ll be wasting your time… unless you’re crystal clear, from the outset, about the outcome you want.

It’s not just a matter of pushing out information, as good as that information may be. We’re all overloaded, and we have the attention span of gnats. You need to know everything you can about your target audiences and what makes them tick. And then you must ask – and then answer –  two important questions: How do you want your audiences to change from the information you’re providing?  And what do you want them to do?

If you answer these questions first, you’ll be able to frame and target your messages, and  you’ll have a much better idea about the most effective communication channel to use.

Sounds simple, right?  But these days, there are many, many ways to engage the people you want to reach (even ongoing, two-way interactions), including webinars, podcasts, videos, online maps, blogs and data visualizations, among others.

You may even decide to produce an old-fashioned white paper. Even so, you must be able to know what will turn your readers on and help them engage by highlighting pearls of wisdom and providing guideposts along the way. Instead of executive summaries or abstracts, for example, offer a summary of “Five Big Take-Aways” for skimmers (most of us).  And provide provocative sub-headlines and call-outs to maintain interest. In other words, it’s good to assume that people don’t have much time to read.

Each form of communication has certain strengths. But it’s a lot easier to choose the channel or channels that can work best for you if you understand your audience, what motivates them, and what you want them to do.

So don’t waste time.  Work backwards.

Don Heymann

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