Sorry for the long delay. This is the second in the communicating better series. Last time I looked at ethics in communications. As always feel free to drop comments here, on twitter or verbally and I can assure you it will impact future discussions.
The old days
Remember walkie-talkies? We thought they were the coolest thing as kids. This was before cell phones hit critical mass and every kid older than 7 had one. Later in life as a camp counselor (poor kids) we used them to communicate around the camp. With walkie-talkies you pressed the button, said what you had to say and waited for a response. This was a transition based communication.
This is how we use to view communication. I sent a message, you received it and then you sent back your response. The focus in this model quickly becomes on how I craft the message I push out. My hope was that you would interpret the message with the same meaning that I intended and vice versa. Sadly this is how most of us still function with our business messages. We send a press release, ad, put up a website or say something on social media, and then we sit back and hope it is interpreted the way we intended. Ineffective, hopeless
Tag, you are It
The major problem with this type of communication is that we start viewing customers as “It”. We push out an email campaign and monitor the open and click through rates and use that as a measure of success. We monitor ad impression rates and try to find correlation between impression and sales. We count our twitter followers, our newsletter subscribers and the circulation numbers on our press releases.
Repeat after me: Customers are not a metric
We have to move beyond viewing customers as it. @Bryanjones wrote a great post looking at social engagement in which he references Martin Buber (who I am a fan of). Buber talks about the need to move from an I-it relationship to an I-thou. Essentially by doing this you are viewing people not as metrics, but as people. Isn’t that what they should always have been?
We create something
Allow me to introduce you to another great person, his name is Barnett Pearce (read his blog sometime, great wisdom). Pearce along with pal Vernon Cronen developed a concept known as Coordinated Management of Meaning (CMM). CMM says that when we communicate we create something. Instead of me sending you a message and you sending me one back we exchange messages together. From those messages we develop a shared meaning based on our unique relationship. This relationship is different from any other that I have, and through understanding what we have created I am able to communicate with you to the absolute best of my ability.
This moves beyond the walkie-talkie communication model and we try to interact with our customers and build relationships. I’ve said for years this is the real interactive marketing, not building a web page or advertising online. Is it really that hard to form a relationship with each of your customers? Unless you are Wal-mart or some large retailer I would think not.
So maybe communicating better is becoming more aware of the people we communicate with. We become aware of what we are creating with them. We become aware of what they need. Ultimately they might just become aware of us. And that is a good thing