What goes wrong when you try to communicate?
I spoke last week to an Air Force Special Ops team, and to a pharmaceutical company, about persuasive communications. Today, I’m talking to a group of Harvard mid-career students from all over the world about the same subject. Each time I talk I spend some time making sure I understand their particular issues in the realm of communications, so that the advice I give them is focused.
What’s fascinating is that such different groups often face the same challenges – in different guises, of course – across professions, fields, age, gender, culture and global divides. In particular, I see three issues that come up over and over again.
1. Lack of Authenticity
When you experience a lack of authenticity, it’s because the messenger isn’t one with the message. You’re saying the words, but you don’t believe what you’re saying. That’s always been difficult to carry off – and why would you try? – but it’s even more difficult now.
One of the unintended consequences of an interconnected world is that it has become much harder to deliver inauthentic messages anywhere. People are too hip, too quick, and too connected to be fooled. From the protestors demanding freedom in the Arab world to patients asking about the efficacy of a drug, to students worldwide, you can’t give them oversimplifications, half-truths and distortions. They’ll smoke you out.
It’s now a transparent world, and our communications have to become truly authentic in response.
2. Lack of Connection
The second problem I see is a lack of connection with the audience. You’re passionate about your message, but you haven’t taken the time to understand what the particular needs of specific audiences are. One size never fits all. That’s the bad news. The good news is that if you take the time to understand each audience, you will begin to see the common elements that tie them together.
All communications, like politics, is local.
3. Lack of Passion
The third problem that comes up over and over again is lack of passion. For a variety of reasons, the communicator isn’t delivering his or her news with the passion necessary to get the message to stick. Once we’re open to you, and we see that you’re authentic, only your passion will keep us focused on you. There’s simply too much going on today in our lives, and in the world, to listen to anyone who isn’t completely passionate about what he or she does.
Get passionate or go home.
What am I missing? What problems do you see with communications in your work? What comes up again and again?