By Mark MacDonald, author of Be Known for Something
Like talking in the wind. We have great ideas, products or services that we’ve formulated, improved, and packaged. We think it’s as easy as communicating everything about our product and our audience will readily adopt what we’re offering.
But, like talking into a wind storm, the words come back to us. They’re not received. We’ve just wasted our time.
I’ve been working in communication firms for over 30 years, and I’ve studied what works and what falls flat. If your audience doesn’t receive your message as intended, you’ve failed. I’ve realized it’s not what you have to offer as much as discovering what your community is looking for.
Effective communication rises and falls on your connection with your community or audience.
I prefer to say community though. This is the group of people who have easy access to you, come in contact with you regularly, or they make up the platform of people who need what you have. The more you understand them, know them, and like them, the more you’ll be able to connect with them. It’s the reason you should start with a small group and then expand.
I currently work with churches and ministries after spending the first half of my career with business clients. Both groups, interestingly, are very similar. We all have something that we want to communicate with the goal that our community adopts it.
But here’s the problem:
- People are only half-listening. We live in a noisy, marketing-cluttered world and we’ve leaned to only half-listen in order to tune out some of the noise. For example, while watching TV, we have scrolling news feeds, random popup ads, and commercials that bombard us while we’re trying to be entertained. On the internet, it’s even worse with geo-targeting and technological advancements trying to interject information into our browsing. Print materials seem to be the calmest ways of communicating, yet more and more, people are reading less and less. We’re all attempting to rise above the noise and the clutter. So we tune out a lot.
- People make instant decisions. It all comes down to time. We have so many opportunities, so much information, and so many choices that need to be made. We don’t have time to research things the way we want, so we make decisions incredibly quickly. Someone types in a website URL and in a nano-second determines if they should stay or jump to another site. When someone decides to stay, the home page gets a mere 3 seconds of attention before they click on a potential page. Then that page only receives about 10 seconds of attention. A quick scan of the information and we’re moving to another page. We just don’t want to take a lot of time.
In a loud informational world where we don’t want to take time to make decisions, how does someone like you communicate new information and expect to connect to a community? If it’s perceived as noise, it’ll be quickly ignored. And that’s where the average church, organization, and business finds itself. Ignored.
We must reconnect, reintroduce ourselves, with our community by revitalizing our reputations.
In my recent Amazon best-selling book, Be Known For Something: Reconnect with Community by Revitalizing Your Church’s Reputation, I discuss the way to do this with churches — but here’s a quick overview of what everyone needs to do in order to communicate effectively:
- Reputation is critical to our success. What you’re known for (or not known for) will speed a decision. We have so many choices and not enough time. We need to be known for something relevant in our community’s mind BEFORE we introduce an invitation or an offer. Often, our reputation will speed up the choice. This is a good and a bad thing. A good reputation will get them to choose you quickly while a bad one will get them to reject even listening to you.
- Look externally first; not internally for a solution to offer. In order to assure that your community doesn’t quickly ignore your communication, you must understand your community and identify what they need; what their concerns or pains are. Then you must consider their goals in life. Only then can you offer a solution to their concerns or a path to their goals. Want to get their attention? Speak their name, their concerns, or a solution to what they need. People will make time for you.
- Controlling your words will revitalize your reputation. Your community will make time for you, but they won’t give you much. So state the big solution, or the big path, as concisely as possible. Don’t tell them features unless they’re tied to a solution or benefit. Continuously, use the same keywords that describe your solution or path. Control how they’re used and where they’re used. Be known for them. Associate specific, controlled colors, fonts, and designs around everything that you’re saying so people will “recognize” you for them. Your reputation of understanding them and wanting to help them will allow you to become known for a solution. Google, Yahoo!, and Bing will also start loving your consistency and will point people to you.
Start with identifying your community, get to know them, and consistently deliver a quality product or service that delivers solutions. From that reputation, your community will grant you time, attention, and money. So don’t delay; reconnect today. Then revitalize your reputation through the control that comes by being heard and seen as a controlled, good brand. You’ll be glad you did.
Because your community will listen.
Mark MacDonald is a Bible Teacher, speaker, author of Be Known For Something, and communication strategist for BeKnownForSomething.com. He empowers churches to become known for something relevant (a communication thread) throughout their ministries, websites, and social media. His book is available at BeKnownBook.com and amazon.com.