It’s About People!
I detest words like “publics, audiences, markets, influencers and opinion leaders,” and I especially dislike “stakeholders.” We all know what the terms mean, but I worry they make us forget we’re communicating with human beings. Sure, we are talking about groups of people with similar interests and issues, but we’re still talking about people.
Communications is about convincing people who are motivated by the same things that motivate us. I’ve always tried to step back from a plan or a message and think how I’d convince one person, or a small group, face-to-face. What objections might I encounter in a conversation and how would I respond to them? Going through that process helps me avoid generalizing or using messages that would never come out of my mouth in person.
I never convince “shareholders” to vote for a proxy initiative or against a takeover. My job is getting most of the people who own the stock to vote a certain way. I have to think about who owns the stock and why. Then I have to break it down. If I’m talking with a group of people who are institutional owners, they have an entirely different set of concerns than people who own a few thousand shares. It is the same for every program I work on. It is about convincing people.
Obviously, no one can go about this job one person at a time. But if you imagine having face-to-face meetings with the different groups of people you’re trying to talk with, I’m confident you’ll get closer to having messages that resonate.
My friend Rich Becker wrote an excellent blog post titled, Dehumanizing People: How Social Connections Create Elitists. In a follow-up discussion with me about this post, he went on to tell me a story about a very large company where the executives began calling employees “units” to make a major downsizing less stressful for them. Just for the record, I pretty much summed up my reaction to how bad that attitude is in one of my previous posts: Communicating Layoffs.
The day people in communications forget their job is connecting with people is the day they should move into another line of work. Remembering it is about people goes beyond successful communications.
Humanize is a great new book by my friends Maddie Grant and Jamie Notter. They walk you through how human beings are taking back control, thanks in part to social media. This book offers an important message about leadership and the future of organizations, and I highly recommend it for anyone in communications or leadership.
Gini Dietich put it well in her quote for the book’s cover:
“The days of controlling your messages are dead. Born is the human organization where people buy from people, not companies. This is not another social media book. Notter and Grant dispel the notion that your leadership and your culture can continue to be self-centered and two-dimensional…”
Don’t get caught in the trap of thinking you are dealing with some faceless mass. Communications and leadership success boil down to convincing people to support you, your organization or your issue.