Communications on Cruise Control

1 Jul

I was talking with a leader at a local community organization. She pointed out that while they produce newsletters, send emails and issue glossy quarterly magazines every year, “nobody reads what we send them.” And she wasn’t the first one to say it.

It’s a common affliction — communications on ‘cruise control’.  Marketers and public relations churning out newsletters, magazines, brochures, whitepapers, news releases and blog posts because … well … because they always have … or the competitors are … or that’s what the people there know how to do … whether or not anyone is paying attention.  Why? Well, it’s easy.  Budgets are predictable.  You just keep heading down the road…

…until you find out that your customers and constituents are on another road entirely. The challenge today is that we’re in a period of transition.  “They” are not relying on print media.  Or social media.  Or websites.  Or blogs. Or text messages.  Or newsletters. Or webinars. Or podcasts.  Or RSS.

They are relying on all of it.

There are too many choices for communicators and too many choices for audiences.  They expect you to deliver what they want, but you can’t deliver everything.

What to do? Companies should audit their communications regularly — find out what they are communicating, how they’re doing it and if it’s working. As you do this, I’d recommend thinking about some long term trends and how they apply to your company:

  • Print is special.  Don’t waste it. Newspapers are in trouble, but many magazines are thriving.  More and more, it seems, there’s a backlash against getting junk in print. For most regular communcations, it’s wasteful and time consuming.  Unless it has a purpose, a value, a depth or even beauty that can’t be reproduced any other way.
  • Choice is here to stay. Offering email alerts and RSS feeds is easy and inexpensive.  So is setting up an RSS feed for your news feed. Does your audience know this? Then they’ll expect it.
  • “Opt-in” beats “Opt-out”. With multiple communications channels into every customer and contact, there is a rising need to manage multi-channel permissions. Even for current customers — is a mailing appropriate? Email? What about a text message?  There are those out there who believe that any uninvited contact — even from a current vendor — is a breach of privacy. While most are not so extreme, isn’t it better to communicate with someone who asks for your message, that to be ignored by someone who didn’t?

Have you done a communications audit lately?  What would you add to this list?

One Response to “Communications on Cruise Control”

  1. Adam Singer July 3, 2008 at 3:59 pm #

    Great post Ken – I’ve been thinking about this alot and you’re right. Everyone gets their information from such a mix of places, at this point no one has a monopoly anymore. You have to find the channels that are successful for you (like BlendTec did with YouTube). It might be something that simple, it might be something else.

    Have to find what makes sense.

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