What are you trying to accomplish?
When every communication starts with an answer to that question, the odds of success are much higher. How will you know if your communication is successful if you are unsure what you’re trying to accomplish? This is a key difference between “responding” and “reacting.” That flame-mail you sent was a reaction. If you had asked yourself, “What do I want to accomplish with this e-mail?” you likely would have done it differently. Answer the question, “What do I want my audience (even if it’s just one person) to do, feel, or think?”
I was recently working with United Way to promote a program to help people understand what it is like to live in poverty. They handed me their brochure for this event. Before I even looked at it I asked them, “What is your goal? What do you want the people who see this brochure to do?” The answer was simple enough, “We want them to attend the event.”
I then asked the follow up questions, “What do you think makes people want to attend the event? What have past participants told you made it worthwhile?” We easily created a list of those motivations.
Now we were ready to examine the brochure which was a letter-sized trifold with lots of copy on every panel. I asked if there was anything in the brochure that talked about those motivations we had just listed. The answer was, “very little.” It was an information brochure with lots of great data on how the simulation worked, but apart from one testimonial sentence, had no motivational content and no calls to action.
It was immediately clear the communication piece they had created was not well aligned with what it was supposed to accomplish.
We spent an hour putting together content aligned specifically to the motivations they had identified. Now they had a great start on a communication piece they could fully expect to succeed. They knew what success looked like; they knew what tactics could generate the desired outcome. Now they had a well-defined space into which they could launch their creativity and let it work for them for success.
Make it work
Knowing your goal helps in all communication contexts – whether one-to-one conversation or mass communication, whether coworkers, family members, bosses, direct reports, neighbors – anyone. Next time you have to have an important conversation, or you’re creating a promotional or other mass communication piece etc., make sure you know what you’re trying to accomplish. Then ask yourself if you have good reason to think what you have created will accomplish your goal.