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Discussing about the power of clear communication.

The power of clear communication.

Let’s be clear (no pun intended): We’ve really had a lens shine on the importance of clear communication because of everything that’s been going on over the last year.

Coming up with simplified messaging, that helps people understand exactly what a brand wants to get across is critical, but what is the secret to it? Is it an achievable end or is it impossible to be 100% to everyone? 

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Recorded on May 14th, 2021

Transcript

Brad Breininger: 0:00

Hi, everyone, and welcome to this week’s Everything is Brand. This week we want to talk about the power of clear communication. It sounds very simple, but is it? One of the things that’s happened over the last little while whether it’s coming from medical sources, or government or even friends and family is that we’ve really had a lens shone on the importance of clear communication and really coming up with simplified messaging and helping people understand exactly the point that you’re trying to get across. This sounds like something that should be really easy. But I know that all of these different groups struggle with it. What is the secret to clear communication? Do you guys think, is this an achievable end? Or is it just impossible?

Marko Zonta: 

I think clear communication is a lot more What do you think difficult than than people think. Writing pages and pages or, talking for a long time, is a lot easier for humans to do than to actually really think about what they’re trying to say and narrow it down to a few very succinct points. And I think that what we’re seeing right now, in terms of government communication, or media or anything else, there’s a lot of confusion, because you’re trying to communicate a lot of different things all at the same time. And I know that a lot of it has to do with being disorganized, and just a lot of different voices at the same time. But I think that even people who are in a position to deliver very powerful messages are maybe on purpose, not delivering powerful, simple messages to make sure that they’re not held accountable to certain things. But I think that when it comes to brand, clea communication is absolutel essential. It’s critical for th success of any brand d communication in general. And I think that it’s very difficu t to do, it really needs to e thought through it needs to e vetted. It needs to be, in so e cases, even tested to make su e that people really understa d what a branch or a y organization is really trying o communicat

Gabi Gomes: 

Let’s be clear, no pun intended, everybody needs to be on the same page. But in order to achieve clear communication, your team, whether it be your team, whether it be the government, vaccine manufacturers, whatever it is, needs to be on the same page, they need to have an agreement on that message, that singular message that they’re pushing out the singular thoughts, product, whatever it is that they’re putting out. And often that’s where things go off the rails when there isn’t an alignment in the organization about what is that they’re trying to communicate, what is it that you’re trying to get at? We saw this in the government release, we’re talking about the Ontario government with respect to their own internal agencies and medical folks, etc. Left hand isn’t talking to the right hand isn’t talking to the other hand, when there’s a lack of internal alignment and vision that translates into misinformation, lack of communication, lack of clarity that permeates from there. And as we saw, and we continue to see there are massive ripple effects to that.

Marko Zonta: 

But I think the Gabi, I think you’re absolutely right about all that confusion. To a certain extent. I understand. Right now, there are a lot of moving parts, there are a lot of different parties that are kind of trying to communicate different things. I’m talking more about communication, even within one specific, let’s say government office, or whatever it may be even that’s very confusing right now, I think that it’s a lot more difficult to to have clear messaging and consistency when it comes to a lot of different angles, different sources, different parties, but the fact that one specific region, city with their government or whatever, that they can’t be very clear with communication, I think it’s just a huge failure on their part, people don’t have time, they just don’t have the energy to read through pages and pages and pages of stuff that’s so confusing. And that’s what I was saying earlier, it is much more difficult to actually bring it down to one sentence that’s very clear, and very direct. And that’s where they are failing, I think, that are just pushing out a lot of information. And it’s really confusing.

Brad Breininger: 

I think it comes down to politics more than anything. And whether those politics or governmental like we’ve seen, not just Ontario, but in Canada and in the United States and all the various states around the world. There’s this distancing that governments are trying to do from the messaging. And I think it comes down to this political reasoning that they think okay, if we’re too clear, or if we take a stand on something, it’s gonna put us in a box and then it’s going to be very difficult for us to get out of that box. And I think that that’s representative of what goes on on a daily basis in organizations everywhere. I mean, I think that there are differing views, there are differing objectives, there are differing messaging that people want to get out there. And instead of aligning everything together, everyone’s just trying to CYA, I won’t say the actual words, but we all know what it stands for. Everyone’s trying to cover their butts, right, and make sure that they can’t be held accountable. And I think that that’s something that’s changed over time. I think that people were a lot more willing, I guess, to say what they thought or be clear about things. And now it just feels like the consequences and the pushback are so severe that if you’re caught in a lie, or in a misinformation, let’s not even call it a lie, although some people do lie. But even if you’re caught within an misinformation, you can be immediately cancelled, and then boom, you’re done. Is this a political issue, as opposed to a communication issue? What do you guys think?

Jeremy Linskill: 

Yeah, I mean, I think it’s absolutely that. It comes down to everybody being in alignment. And I think that that’s a near impossible thing to do within any organization, you get a lot of people that come in, and have their own ideas in their own opinion. And frankly, that’s what makes them valuable to an organization. But at the end of the day, that’s what’s going to lend itself to clear communication is all being on the same page, we look at ourselves as an organization, it’s challenging for us to do that. Being on the website of things, in the digital space, I see a lot of this when we deal with clients and having them try and decide what the most important thing on their website is, and prioritizing their information, they want to be all things to all people. And that means six different calls to action on the homepage of a website, which is not a good way to go. Because if you think about it on the other side, you’re dividing your audience into six different areas, as opposed to having them focus in on one thing, you know, maybe it’s a signup form and getting the contact you maybe it’s getting them to sign up for a trial of some kind, or something like that. But if you’re like sign up for a form, sign up for a trial contact us. That’s what ultimately most of our clients deal with as they want all of those things. And right there, you can see how we battle clear communication all the time. I think it’s a very challenging thing. And I think there are a lot of variables to it across the board,

Gabi Gomes: 

I think you hit the nail on the head, you need to focus, focus is probably the number one avenue to get to clear communication focus on the one message you need to get across the one big message you need to get across. If we think about let’s dial it back to a year ago, when all levels of government were singing from the same song sheet, basically saying stay home, stay home, stay home, it worked, people got the message wherever it was, because it was one singular message. Fast forward. Now a year later, that message is broken up. It’s broken up, its political, you name it, it’s what you’re saying. It’s the six calls to action that’s happening right now. And you’re right, whether that is a website, whether that is a video, whether that is whatever printer piece you’re putting out, but you need to have focus on that one message you’re trying to get across. And yes, that takes alignment from the organization that takes a lot of work to get to that point. And I hear what you’re saying Marko in terms of things change all the time, and stuff is evolving, especially around the pandemic, but that main message should still remain the same, there are still some commonalities of the message that remained the same. And then there’s other offshoots of caveats of saying but you know, things evolve and things change. But there’s still got to be commonalities in that main message. And that consistent repetition of that message. That’s how you get through that point,

Marko Zonta: 

Gabi, what shocked me, and I don’t really want to talk about the pandemic in general. But it is a really good example of what’s actually going on. What shocks me is the fact that the government in this case, did not actually realize that communication is going to be one of the most critical components of dealing with what’s going on, they really should actually put together one point of contact one website that would actually bring all of the main messages or main message, however many to have to one source. So you’re not fishing for information, you’re not going all over the place, the government should say, this is the only website you need to go to. And this is where you’re going to find everything you need to know. And they fail to do that. using that as an example. I absolutely agree with you. It’s a failure from that point of view. But I think that when it comes to brands and organizations, it’s probably a little bit easier for them to manage that because they do have one point of interest.

Brad Breininger: 

Yeah, but I think that even they struggle for a very similar reason. And I think that you know, going back to what you said earlier, Gabi. This idea that in the early days, the message was stay home. People often say to me, Well, how is it that smaller organizations or startups can come in and disrupt an industry or disrupt an organization with their brand and I often say look, a lot of times, these small Organizations are rallying around a single goal, a single focus, they’re coming in, they have nothing to lose, they’re going in, the only fear they have is failure. So they’re not afraid of actually succeeding, when you have nothing to lose, you’re a lot more brave. And I think if you look at that startup mentality, whether your courage comes from wanting to stop a pandemic, and tell everyone to stay home, there’s a very singular message in that you can be very clear, and everyone can rally around it. And then on the startup side, if you want to go in and disrupt an industry against a few powerhouse brands, you have a singular message, you have a singular focus, you have a singular goal, and everyone rallies around it. And I think therein lies some really deep insight into what organizations or governments need to do when it comes to clarity of communication, you almost have to put aside all of these other things. Because I think what happens over time, a lot of these big brands or as the pandemic rolls on, what happens is all these different opinions start to creep their way into the messaging. And you say, Okay, well, if we say this, that we have to say that and if we don’t say that, then we’re going to get in trouble for this. And if we commit to that, then we’re going to be held accountable for this. So what happens is, is that you lose that focus that you were talking about, Gabby, you lose that ability to say, All I care about is that people understand what I’m trying to get across. That’s the power of the clarity, and that clarity starts to wane when all of these other little things start to creep in. And I think one of the hardest things for anyone to do, whether it’s an individual, or whether it’s a government, or whether it’s a brand is to get rid of a lot of that noise. You even see it in interpersonal relationships. In the early days of a relationship, it’s a lot easier to communicate until stuff starts to pile on. And it starts to get more and more layers that you have to go through to get to what you actually need, or you’re concerned about upsetting the applecart. I think that what I’ve seen in this pandemic is a lot of governments, they don’t want to upset the applecart, they don’t want to put themselves out there. And you see that in brands as well. A lot of big brands are trying to serve so many different stakeholders that the messaging just becomes milk toast, it just becomes this huge conglomeration of ideas and positionings and messages that no longer feel clear. And that’s why some of these startups, when they have that singular point of contact, that arrow messaging that can go and hit that Bullseye, they’re able to come in and make a difference, because they have that clarity, do you think is taken for granted?

Gabi Gomes: 

Do you think communication is often taken for granted?

Brad Breininger: 

Oh, 100%. Often people say to us, writing isn’t really a skill everyone can write. But the difference between being able to write well, and the fact that everybody writes. And I think communication is the same as human beings, we all know how to communicate. But that doesn’t mean we understand the art of communication.

Marko Zonta: 

We see this all the time working on projects, or clients that are trying to either refresh their brand, refresh their website, whatever it may be, we always tell them simplicity, keep it really simple focus on what’s really important. And we say that at the very beginning, and we have to keep repeating it because there’s always this Oh, but we also need to say this, oh, but we also need to add that and it’s like, before you know it, you’re back to where you started, there is like 20 messages instead of the two or three that we started with. And that’s always an issue. We see this all the time, right? Like, it’s just that human nature, like you’re afraid of not including something or saying something we’re really you can say all of those additional things, just put them lower on the page, or put them on a different page. Again, what are the two or three key messages? That’s the only thing that’s important? Everything else is additional information that people will find if they’re looking for more information,

Jeremy Linskill: 

It’s hard to commit? And that’s I think, ultimately, it’s a big part of this is it’s hard for people to commit to one idea or prioritizing information, making those difficult decisions. It takes time and it takes energy to sit down and decide what’s going to be your most important message.

Brad Breininger: 

Yeah, time and energy for sure, Jeremy, but I think the other one that it takes is courage. It takes the courage to say, this is what I’m committing to. This is what we’re going to commit to this is what we’re going to put out there.

Gabi Gomes: 

Are we talking about relationships are we like talking about brands?

Brad Breininger: 

I don’t think, I don’t think…

Gabi Gomes: 

Because it feels we’re talking about relationships.

Brad Breininger: 

I don’t think you can separate whether you’re talking about the interaction between a brand and a customer or client or whether you’re talking about an interpersonal relationship, the dynamics are very much the same, and they’re very similar and one of the biggest dichotomies that we have and this The tough one to get across is that the receiver of the information wants something quick, straightforward and precise, so that they can get on with what they want to do. But the giver of the information feels like they need to get everything in all at once. So you have this dichotomy where the giver of the information has a different objective than the receiver of the information has. And I think that that’s what trips people up probably more than anything else.

Christian Rosenthal | ZYNC: 

I would say, further to that, and this is something that didn’t happen a couple of years ago, we live in a cancel culture right now. So anything that you say wrong, or that it hurts someone’s feelings gets overblown. So I hear you, Jeremy, when you say it takes time, but it’s also how to deal with this sensitivity of people of every audience, because that’s what you’re facing right now. And I presume that’s what the government’s facing, right? It’s either you make happy, the small businesses or you make happy the communities or you make happy, and so on, and so forth. It’s a challenging situation.

Jeremy Linskill: 

But the end of it like I mean, the pandemic is about keeping people alive, right? There’s a number one message done, right?

Brad Breininger: 

And that’s why stay home work. At the time stay home was all about what we could do to make a difference. And it was clear, it was two words, it was easy. But then the problem was that as human beings, we started to go, Well, wait a second, why do we have to stay home? And if I’m staying home, and that person isn’t staying home? Is that fair? And what are you doing about that person who isn’t staying home? Now all of a sudden, what starts to happen is that what seemed like a very clear, concise message turned into all of these things. And I think that there’s a lot of factors affecting that. Like you said, Christian, there’s different stakeholders, there’s different groups, and they have different objectives of their own. And so all of a sudden, the message starts to splinter. What’s difficult is how do you manage that and still stay clear at the same time.

Gabi Gomes: 

And I think the other one that plays into it is time like we live in a day now that there’s so much information being thrown at us. It’s so fast, it’s so furious, you know, good luck keeping up with it, right? There’s just too much.

Marko Zonta: 

The point that wa just brought up, I think is really interesting is the f ct that there are so many stak holders and so many au iences. And what I actua ly find interesting that now t at I’m thinking about it is th t not very often, or I guess ardly ever, you actually h ar anybody who gets challenged on a point, whatever the situati n may be to simply say, that’ fine. You’re not our audien e, you may be upset, but we’re not talking to you. It really d esn’t matter if you’re up et about something or if you d n’t, our audience needs to hear his. And we’re only speaking to hem. And I think that that’s act ally kind of interesting that yo know, whether it’s brands, ompanies, governments or w omever, are not saying th t, because you’re absolutely r ght, you will never be able to s tisfy absolutely every st keholder every audience. So I think that that’s actually ind of an interesting point tha Christian brought up.

Brad Breininger: 

To that point. I mean, I think it’s easier for brands to do that. Because a brand can definitely say, Look, you’re not our audience, I think a government that’s a little more difficult, because really, all of them are their audience. But on the brand side, for sure. And there are some brands who do that there are some brands, who are unapologetic of how they go out and communicate. And for the people who kind of rally them and say, this doesn’t help me, they say, well, you’re not the person that we’re trying to reach. Sorry about that. But we’re going to continue on. But I think it’s a huge opportunity for brands to really understand who they’re trying to speak to. And I think a lot of brands used to be way better at that. But what happens is, as time goes on, and as you grow, and you get more successful, it starts to matter more that you’re going to piss somebody off, it starts to matter more, that you’re bringing all of your different stakeholders together, when you’re able to just kind of push through and you’re you’re kind of up and coming your way more concerned on the end goal. So maybe what needs to happen is that whether it’s a brand, whether it’s a government, no matter who it is, there has to be this focus on Look, I understand that there are these different opinions. And we’ll get to the interpretation of all that. But right now, here’s what we need you to understand. Here’s what we need you to know, here’s what you need, we need you to understand, and here’s what we need you to do. If an organization or a government or anyone can put those simple things together to kind of get the conversation started, then they have a chance for clear communication, then they have a chance for simplifying the message.

Marko Zonta: 

And I think in addition to that, when it comes to clear communication, to have to accept the fact that no brand, no government, really nobody who’s communicating is absolutely pure in the sense that they can’t potentially get caught in putting out misinformation or somebody under a team doing something that they weren’t supposed to do. And I think that when organizations, brands or governments or whomever kind of accepts that fact, I think that it’s going to be easier to actually start to communicate in a very clear way. Because they will just simply say what they need to say at that time, and then deal with any kind of issues. Because the reality is that no matter what organization you look at, there’s always potential for something to go wrong. Because let’s face it, we’re human people do all kinds of different things that may say something that may do something. Cameras are everywhere, recordings are everywhere, right? So it’s really a matter of focusing on what you’re trying to do what you’re trying to say. And then deal with the follow up if something comes up?

Brad Breininger: 

Yeah, and for the brands or governments or people who are willing to do that there may be an upside right, there may be an upside that their message is getting across the downside may be that they get canceled, or that their risk becomes so high that others in the organization or others in the government say no, absolutely not, we can’t do that. I think that it really comes down to this idea of making sure that you understand what it is that you’re trying to achieve. It all goes back to this idea of what is it that I’m actually trying to do here, because I think a lot of times, what happens is that you go down these rabbit holes, and your original intention is lost somewhere along the way. And then you’re just communicating absolutely everything to everyone at all times. And I think that’s what causes some of the biggest problems, there’s always going to be risk, there’s always going to be potential blowback, there’s always going to be this idea that people may or may not agree with you. But I think if you can stick to the objectives, and really understand what your intention is in your communication, you can be clear, it doesn’t mean that there can’t be follow ups, it doesn’t mean that you can’t put different things out, you just might not be able to do it all at once, you just might not be able to do it all on the homepage, you just might not be able to do it all in a single ad, it’s really about creating a communication continuum, where you start by going out with clear simple communication that invites people in, then once they’re invited in, then they’re willing to accept a little bit more information. And then once they accept that a little bit more information, you can direct them to the information that’s most important to them. It’s a process. And I think that the organizations that get this right do well when it comes to engaging their employees, engaging their customers, engaging their clients, really making sure that they can continue to communicate in a strong powerful way where it becomes a cluster, you know, what is when people try to do too much all at once, and it goes off on these tangents. And then no one understands what the messaging is at all. And we see that with governments, we see that with brands, we see that in interpersonal relationships as well. And a lot of times it’s very difficult to come back from that. So I think the greatest advice or insight that we can give brands is look at this as a process. Look at this as a tiered layered approach of how you want to communicate. Because if you can start to embrace that and not think about it all in totality, and start to really decide how you want to put your messaging out. Understanding that you have multiple stakeholders understanding that you have multiple audiences, it’s going to give you the opportunity to connect with those audiences and be as simple and as clear as you can possibly be. That’s This Week for Everything is Brand. Next week, we’ll have a new topic. So join us then. And remember, everything is brand.

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