A while back I met with a school Head to discuss possibilities for updating their prospectus. Before our meeting he’d met with another agency, which had caused a bit of confusion, and he was keen to tell me about it. It seems much marketing jargon had been used in connection with branding, and the Head couldn’t fully grasp its meaning. The experience left him feeling uncertain and negative about what he was getting into. Hence, the agency didn’t get the job.
The episode was an example of communication failure. The Head was perfectly aware that the school has its own identity and ‘personality’ and the importance of conveying this to prospective parents, but he couldn’t relate to the ‘brand speak’ because it wasn’t part of the vocabulary he would use to describe his school.
Successful communication depends on two things working in synergy: what is said and what is understood. If one doesn’t match the other, misunderstandings take place and the point of communication gets lost.
This particular agency representative was using vocabulary that was familiar to him in his professional role and, as such, he knew exactly what he meant. However, what he neglected to do was to take into account the nature of the person he was talking to, assess how they might be used to communicating, and adapt his pitch to fit.
Getting to know the audience is a basic function of marketing and communication. Before any of us attempt to make personal contact with another person, we need to be aware of who it is we are talking to; taking into account how they may respond to what we say, and choose language that is right for them – not us. Sometimes our choice of words can add more uncertainty than clarity and it can cost us valuable customers.