I have been a professional communicator for a hell of a long time. I’ve worked for large multinational agencies, iconic Canadian agencies, marketing companies, design firms, marketing and communication consultants, large direct clients and SMEs. The best part of all this, as any creative person will tell you, is that every day is a whole new ball game, presenting new opportunities to learn, new things to do, new media to explore and new skills to master.
During the course of this journey I have been a copywriter, assembly artist, photographer, art director, print and broadcast producer, strategist and creative director. This has given me a fairly well-rounded perspective on what the communications process is all about. And the time I have spent both sides of the digital revolution has given me a good perspective on the new tools that are popping up every day.
But this blog can’t go on forever. So I will get to the point. These are 10 of the most important things I have learned about the communications business, which have been the keys to my success, or survival, depending on how you look at it.
1. Good Communication Is All About The Conversation: Communication, in whatever form it happens to come at people, should always form the basis for a conversation or response. Today, it’s called engagement, which is a bullshit word. I like conversational.
2. Good Communication Does Not Try To Bullshit Anyone: The integrity of whatever the communication is about, be that a product or service, rides on every message that goes out. If you’re not telling the truth, then the people on the other end of your message will find out pretty quickly, and they will spread it around. Not good for you or your client.
3. If You Don’t Know Where You’re Going, You Simply Won’t Get There: Every piece of communication, whether it’s a stand alone or part of some program or campaign, needs to be guided and shaped by a well thought-out strategy. This is a short sentence, but it means a whole lot.
4. Good Communication Starts With Good Communication: What this means is that whoever is involved in the communication process, client or communications supplier, all get a say in shaping the direction, tone and manner of the communication. This is truer than ever in today’s world where clients are much more hands-on in the process than they used to be.
5. Related Experience Means A Lot Less Than Most People Think: Seasoned communicators have the ability to hit the ground running in any area of the market. There may be a learning curve, but for professionals, it’s generally quite short. Also specifically hiring people with lots of experience in your market area or category comes with the risk of getting something completely predictable. I’m not saying that’s always the case. Just saying that if you hire a pro, his background and experience are not as important as his basic ability to think, create and relate to your product or service.
6. Media Is Still Media: Since the advent of the Internet, the number of marketing tools at our disposal has increased. But their primary function has not changed. A good communicator has the flexibility built into his DNA to adapt to these new media rather quickly, especially if he has worked in communications in the days before the Internet. The same cannot always be said for communicators whose background is strictly in the digital realm.
7. The Communications Entity Itself Has Changed: In today’s world large ad agencies and marketing companies exist primarily to serve huge national and multinational corporations. The vast majority of the rest of the marketing world works with consultants and their teams. They work with freelance communications people. Or they have created their own in-house facility. This has happened for two reasons. 1. Agencies and their huge overheads and markups, and 2. The desire on the part of company’s marketing people to be more in touch with their communication programs. (See #3)
8. Everybody Has Good Ideas: A smart communicator is a filter. Taking in the ideas that everybody involved in the process has, digesting them and creating something original that is powered by the best of all of these ideas.
9. Research Is A Tricky Business. The voice of the people is not always something you want to risk your company’s image and future on. Companies who use research to develop strategies are taking a huge risk. Companies who use research to verify and fine tune ideas are not. The most recent example of the inaccuracy of research comes from the provincial election in Ontario, where the polls had all there major political parties running neck and neck, just days before the election. The result of the election was a Liberal landslide and majority government. About as far away from those research results as you can get.
10. If Any Communicator Ever Mentions The Words ‘Award Winning’ To You, Fire Them Immediately: These are people who may be quite talented, but are in it for the glory. The whole purpose of becoming a communicator in the first place is to help your clients grow their business and look and sound good doing it. Any other agenda will only detract from that or create communications that may resonate with awards judging panels but be lost on your customers.
Well there you have it. There are probably a bunch more, but these are definitely among the most important in my mind. Hope this helps you when it comes to choosing communications people to work with. And for communications people, I hope it has pointed out a thing or two that could enhance your ability to take good care of your clients.
Post Script: By the time you read this, the new Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation will likely be in place and all the paranoia that has manifested over the past month will turn into abject fear of being reported, which for a number of small businesses would be a death sentence.
It will also turn into a huge loss of opportunity for smaller businesses in Canada to do simple email business prospecting. My business is affected by this draconian bullshit to some extent. But there are other people I know who have had their databases decimated by large numbers of people not opting in in response to their requests. That is what it is, I suppose. But this is a report based systems, so I would strongly encourage anyone out there to live by this CASL Golden Rule. Thanks. I know you will all do the right thing.
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