Ever received an email and scratched your head, wondering why you received it or what you’re supposed to do with it. It sucks, right? When I receive these, I often wonder if the sender really understands who they’re communicating with in the first place and wonder what they were hoping to accomplish?
When you want to communicate with someone, it’s critical that you’re clear about why you’re doing it and the results you’re hoping to see. It’s one of the most important steps in any successful communication plan. And yet, the number one response clients typically give when asked “Why do you want to communicate about this?” is “To spread awareness.” Uh…what? What does that mean? And do you know when you’ve successfully done that?
If you aren’t clear why you’re communicating, the person you’re communicating with won’t be clear either. Let’s flip this. If I’m your target audience and you want to “spread awareness,” what am I supposed to do with this brand new awareness? Should I take it for a test drive? Show it off to some family and friends. Re-gift it to others?
I would challenge that simply wanting to “spread awareness” is as rare as having the stork drop off a baby smurf on a blue moon. There’s usually a reason you’re communicating. There’s some action you’re hoping to see happen. That specific action is your real objective; “spreading awareness” is a buzzword.
Imagine that you work for a company and are planning to attend a tradeshow to try and connect with new customers. Which of these goals will get you better results? Remember, your goals affect the actions you’ll take, how you’ll interact and how you’ll define success.
1. Attend the upcoming tradeshow to spread awareness about my company.
2. Attend the upcoming tradeshow and get at least five new customers to purchase my company’s product.
Do you see the difference? With Goal #1, I might talk to every person who comes near my booth. Maybe I hand out tons of resource materials and business cards and yet, not one person buys anything. If #1 was my goal, technically, I succeeded. I pushed out information and spread awareness. I might not know if anyone used the information, but I spread it.
If my real goal was #2, to attract five new clients and get them to spend some money, I failed. Or at the very least, I might want to decide if the tradeshow was a useful tool: was it a good use of my company’s time, money and resources? Did it connect me with the right people? Was it the tool or do I need to change my pitch?
If you’re the person initiating the communication, be clear. Ambiguity begets more ambiguity. Be a courteous communicator. If you want something from me, tell me so I can decide to comply or deny. Use plain language and be clear. If there’s action I need to take, tell me quickly and don’t bury your ask. Provide a GPS or some direction where you need me to go. If you don’t, that shiny, new awareness you gifted me will never leave the garage.