The human instinct to respond to the new and unusual is something that we as communicators have to workaround. How do we best engage our audiences on a subject that’s not new – a fundraising appeal for an existing program; an overview brochure on a service organization that’s been around for fifty years, with pretty much the same focus; or marketing services that we’ve offered for over a decade?
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking on this issue and was amazed when my rabbi sermonized on the same topic last Saturday. We had just witnessed a beautiful adult bat mitzvah (a Jewish coming of age ceremony, usually undertaken at age 13 but one that can be studied for at any point later in life if it misses at 13). As a follow-up, the rabbi talked about the power of opportunities (like a bat mitzvah) that enable us to look at things in a new way. He ran through the list of occasions – bar or bat mitzvah, new year or month, birthday, anniversary, religious new year as well as changes in job, family, location – that enable us to see things differently, to re-orient ourselves.
Since such occasions do not always occur naturally, we have to motivate ourselves to look at our organizations or clients in a new way so that we can communicate in a fresher (and more relevant) way. Here are a few ways to do so:
o Put yourself in your listeners’ shoes. Think about the background they have and the information they need to understand what you’re doing and why it’s important to them. Talk to your audiences to get the real story. Convene a focus group and interview some of your constituents to ensure that you are aware of their current perspectives on your organization, the work you do, and the field in which you work.
o Look around at your world – be it clean water or women’s health – and see what’s changed and how your organization has responded to those changes.
o Talk about results, rather than merely describing what you do. Not only can this be a refreshing change, but it’s also much more meaningful. Review your accomplishments and translate them into the crisp, bright copy. Update your communications regularly with current achievements.