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External Communication

Avatar photo by Casey Woods, Executive Director | January 24, 2018

A couple of editions ago, the e-news focused on internal customer communications. Multiple businesses/organizations reached out with positive comments and additional communications questions, one of those being the consumption of external communication. The “we just need to get everyone together”, or “we just need to communicate” within specific business/organizational categories seemed to be a specific comment from a singular demographic group.

The ability to reach a specific group or individual quickly through newer media platforms has changed communication strategy. The problem isn’t a lack of information, or lack of access to communication. You can typically find out “what’s going on” through web sites, newsletters (like these), social media, traditional media updates, or by directly contacting the business/organization that you want information from. The prevailing issue in modern communication is that we have now become consumers in an information marketplace, and consumers seek out information when they find value in it.

Some consumers will listen to our local radio stations for sports entertainment, read the newspaper for human interest stories, and go online to watch cat videos. A consumer based communication economy means that people absorb information when they find value in it.

Businesses and organizations create content with value in mind. When businesses or organizations communicate, they are trying to strengthen their brand, drive sales, increase traffic, or achieve some other metric goal. The days of “lets just sit around and talk for the sake of talking” are going away. Don’t get me wrong, people still “get together” for purely social reasons, but communicating within the world of business is meant to generate action.

So, how do you “add value” to communication that encourages the public to absorb your message? The basics for adding value really revolves around answering four questions:

1. Efficiency: Does the content make life easier for the consumer?

2. Effectiveness: Does the content make life better for the consumer?

3. Innovation: Does the content allow the consumer to do new things?

4. Capacity: Does the communication effort increase the assets available to the business/organization?

When you are communicating to the public, which of these goals are you attempting to achieve? If you read your content and your answer is “none of the above”, you probably won’t consistently convince the public to consume your information. If you are a business or organization communicating with other businesses and organizations and you don’t build capacity, you probably won’t consistently engage your audience.

Instead of the statement “we simply need to communicate”, try asking yourself this question: “how can I make my communication more valuable?”. By answering the value proposition, you can ensure that people want to engage in your communication strategy. The content produced, the forum that supports the content, and the consistency of the approach should provide mutual benefit that is measurable.

I think it is pretty clear that business and organizational structures and strategies continue to change. Things that may have worked twenty years ago may not work today. The multiple hats that most entrepreneurs must wear to remain a viable business/organization mean that time is precious. The analogy that I like to use is that at one time businesses had a typewriter for typing formal communications, stationary for informal messages, a calculator for math, a phone for calls, a fax machine for sending documents, a camera for recording visual information, and endless binders to store printed documents. We can now do all of that on our smart phone. The industrial “one thing does one thing” mindset is being replaced with the organic “one thing (or person) can have many functions. From a content perspective, the many functions allow for a more holistic view that is communicated with the public, and the ability to integrate different concepts into singular activities.

By adapting our approaches to consumer needs and business/organizational realities, communication efforts are more successful. Again, we can’t expect everyone to adapt to us (we have to meet them somewhere in the middle), but we have to create value in order to participate in the marketplace of content. So, how do you know that your approach is working? You can typically see growth in the number of consuming public engaged within your communication strategy if your content is effective. For example, when Emporia Main Street started our e-newsletter, we had around 120 “subscribers”, and now we have over 11,000. We started our Facebook “fan page” from zero, and we now have over 10,000 “likes”. Our Instagram platform is relatively new, and we have over 1,000 followers. Our Twitter following is at about 2,900. We communicate regularly with local newspaper and radio stations, and we have solid traffic on a web site brimming with content (though we need to revamp our page format). The growth of our communication consumer base is directly linked to our ability to satiate consumer communication demands.

Don’t simply throw information out to the world or expect people to seek you out for communication. Find a way to add value to your target market (or peers) through the communication process. Your quality message will improve your branding efforts and grow your audience over time.

About the Author

Casey Woods, Executive Director

Before accepting the director position in March of 2009, Casey worked in both retail and agricultural jobs in the family businesses. A lifelong resident of the Emporia Area, Casey was a ten year volunteer for Emporia Main Street prior to his appointment as director. During that time he served as the board president and chair of the Economic Vitality Committee.

Casey also serves as a partner in PlaceMakers, LLC, a consulting firm that routinely works with both large and small communities, and their businesses, to promote sustainable economic growth through community and economic development practices. Casey consults with businesses, organizations and communities to understand their market capacity and fill vacant spaces. He has been involved in two projects that included crowdfunding as a part of their overall business funding strategies, Radius Brewing and Twin Rivers Winery & Gourmet Shoppe.