How often have you received a marketing or public relations message dripping with the intent of the sender? A media pitch oozing with self-promotion? Marketing collateral inflated with puffery and self-congratulatory language?
We are all needful creatures, pursuing solutions to our own unique equations of personal and professional satisfaction, and the examples above reflect that self-focused side of human nature--the side that wants to win, to take, to get.
Perhaps more than in any other field, however, professional communicators must recognize the proclivity to speak in this manner, bolstered by the semantics, signposts and expressions of their own personal worlds of meaning rather than in the language and constructs of meaning of those they wish would respond. No wonder our field can have a bad reputation; too many poor practitioners demonstrate complete disregard for their audience and their needs and, in doing so, not only isolate potential clients and supporters but leave a bad taste in their mouths.
Effective communications requires that we abandon ourselves, check ourselves at the door, render ourselves invisible, and tune ourelves to the needs and desires of our audience. Effective communications requires that we understand a world beyond our own.
Misunderstandings can rear themselves in the nastiest of ways--political belligerence, war, broken relationships. While professionals in other fields sometimes don't quite 'get' what it is that we do, this list of tragedies reflects what can happen when professional communicators (or at least the capabilities for effective communications) are absent.
But then, what about the human side of communicators? Who will look out for us? Who will satisfy OUR needs if we sacrifice ourselves to the worlds of our audiences?
An old adage states that one must give before one gets. Not coincidentally, listening, understanding and responding to others is generally recommended as the first step for any individual or organization wishing to develop a presence in the social media space. Social media may be new but...the more things change, apparently, the more things stay the same.
What professional communicators receive as the reward for doing their jobs well is a response. How many frustrated salespeople or marketers wonder why no one listens to them or responds with loyalty or purchased services? How many so-called professionals remain locked in a world of their personal signposts and semantics, believing their words represent actual communication while no one listens?
Our audiences will be attracted to us when we speak in a language familiar to their world. Every one of us is bombarded daily by the messages, advertisements and pitches of others, generating emptiness, stress, loneliness. How rare a thing is it to be spoken to in our language of meaning and need? Is it any wonder then, when that rare instance happens, audiences are attracted?
To communicate this way is neither manipulation nor unethical. So long as our communications are accurate and elicit expectations for goods and services that truly can be delivered by our organizations in the manner we describe, then our conduct--checking ourselves at the door and communicating in the language of our audiences and their needs--becomes a boon and a source of greater competitiveness in the marketplace.
Whenever I think of the power to attract audiences with professional messaging, I think of the scene in Star Wars when Obi-Wan Kenobi commands a risky situation to turn away unwanted attention from Imperial stormtroopers. He utilizes intense but graceful, calm though powerful, reassuring though intentful words to achieve his desired results. Although we may never find ourselves in the Tatooine desert needing to schlep some droids to the planet of Alderaan, the results we can elict are often the same as those of the Jedi Knight.
And remember, Obi-Wan Kenobi was the good guy.