What You Want Doesn’t Matter

A communicators’ path to caring about other people … you know … to succeed and stuff.

Bacon the Cat. Monet the Dog. Both stars in their own minds.

Bacon the Cat. Monet the Dog. Both stars in their own minds.

Everyone’s the star of their own show.

Trust me, every ‘trying to make myself stop thinking about work problems and fall back to sleep at 3am’ daydream scenario involves me – THE STAR – telling hilarious jokes to George Clooney and Brad Pitt as we dine on sushi. At no point does either one of the ACTUAL STARS take over the conversation.

Similarly, although yes, I do care about my colleagues, my professional development meetings and reviews are about ME, ME, ME. I want to talk about the training I hope and dream for, what I need to do better. ME, ME, ME, ME.

And just look at this picture. Do you think my dog, Monet, believes my cat, Bacon, is the star of the show? Heck no, HE IS WHO MATTERS AND HE IS WHO SHOULD GET ALL THE TREATS.

Because we all live inside our own minds and bodies, it can be difficult to turn the spotlight off our needs, wants and desires and shine it on someone else’s requirements.

But that’s what we, as communicators, need to do.

What you want doesn’t matter. Sounds harsh, but that’s what I tell my clients when we start digging deep into the weeds and extracting fragments of their strategy to understand how to communicate with their clients and customers.

“But we want our customers to do ___” is what I hear a lot. While I’m not for a second insinuating we should abandon business goals and objectives, my point is we need to support those goals and objectives by aligning what our customers want with our offering.

If you push your agenda on your audiences/customers/clients without putting what they want in the spotlight – they’re not gonna bite. They just won’t.

Yes, seems like a simple concept, but when you’re in the middle of campaign planning/drafting a press release/planning a Tweet, it’s easy to put yourself back in the starring role and shift the focus of your content and messaging away from what your primary audiences care about.

Here are some ways to remind yourself “it’s not about me”.

1.     Persona/Profile Development - Take the time to study and understand who you’re communicating with. Find out the answers to these questions: where do they seek their information? What are their values? What’s their mindset? How have they been burned before? What will make their lives easier?

Work with primary and secondary sources (or partner with your agency of choice) to develop a clear view of the real people you need to connect with. Then print these personas out on old-timey paper and tape them up in front of your face.

2.  Clearly articulate to yourself and your team what value your content (blogs, earned media, social media content, videos) will provide to these personas you’ve come to know so intimately. How is what you’re making/saying/doing adding something of meaning?

3. Clearly articulate to yourself and your team how what you’re going to say/do is specific to you. Why wouldn’t your beloved personas seek out this information elsewhere? How are you unique? How are you special and therefore, how are you special to your audiences?

4. Track your personas’ Path to Engagement by mapping out the journey your client or customers will need to take to buy your widget/book your room/read your article/enrol in your course etc. A good place to start is the Google Customer Journey tool. The goal of this exercise is to understand, clearly, how your targets are moving through the world and what they need from you – where and when -  in order to eventually do business with you. Understand how they want to be communicated with, not how you want to do it. 

5.  Ask how you’re doing explicitly, through surveys and in-person feedback and through analytics. Check to see if people are engaging in your content. Are they coming back? Are they sharing it? Are then interacting with your social media? Are they signing up for your newsletter? If so … it’s probably more relevant to them than content that sites there with no interaction.

Basically, be less like my pets, who are both self-absorbed. It’s not about you … all the time.