The Perils of (Mis)Communication

An image of a steak, with flies buzzing about it, referencing some marketers' penchant for selling the sizzle when the steak -- the product -- is rancid.

Why do many customers have an inherent distrust of companies? Why do they look at public relations and marketing efforts through a jaundiced eye? Because far too many communications, marketing, and public relations professionals focus on creating sizzle when the steak tastes like rancid shoe leather.

If you don't deliver on your promise then your word devolves into nothingness.

And there's no amount of goodwill, promotional efforts, public relations, or SEO that can counteract a negative experience between your customer and your product.

Let's face it. Not everything we do is going to be perfect. And not everything we create is going to perfectly mesh with the needs, desires, and expectations of your customers. But normal disappointments and negative experiences can be handled through effective customer service and interpersonal interactions.

What compounds the issue is when you make promises and claims upon which you just can't deliver.

Unfortunately, there are always going to be people who try to game the system. Back in the day, people referred to it as 'spin.' Today, we're still feeling the effects of those who manipulate the system to get good numbers in SEO.

But there's a vast difference between numbers and results. One does not always equal the other.

In marketing your business, it's not just about getting your name out to the largest-possible audience. It's about getting your name out to the largest-possible audience of people who are likely to take an action.

In SEO terms, you can buy 10,000 likes from a Thai Internet café and make it look like your Facebook page is a happening place. But what does that mean to your bottom line? How much revenue is this creating for your business?

Sure, having 100 likes on your page may not seem exciting, but if 99 of them are likely to buy and support your product, isn't that worth far more than 10,000 people who have no idea who you are and what you do? Are those 10,000 bought likes going to talk about you to their friends, share positive experiences on their social networks, or actually walk through the doors of your bricks-and-mortar establishment?

No. So if you're going to market to people that matter, doesn't it make sense to be honest?

You don't just want attention, you want business. And that's why it's perilous to follow those SEO/Marketing wizards, gurus, ninjas, or magicians. Traditionally, all four of those occupations deal in smoke and mirrors, deceiving the audience, and misdirecting them. Sure, the show may be exciting, but there's nothing of substance – and, historically, you end up a little lighter in the wallet.

You can use flash and dash to get people in your doors. And if all you want is attention, that's fine. But if you want long-term, repeat business that benefits from a happy clientele who is willing to advocate on your behalf to its friends and family, then you have to deliver value at the end.

I often use the example of a building to illustrate the importance of a foundation. Whether it's a product or content messaging, the foundation is the most important thing you'll build. No matter how pretty or dynamic a façade may be, it will crumble (maybe spectacularly, but it will crumble nonetheless) if there is not a strong foundation to support it.

You can have the coolest viral video, you can have the best Website or social strategy, and you can make the funniest TV commercial at the Super Bowl, but if your product is terrible then it doesn't matter.

Be honest with your customers, even if that means choking down on the hyperbole. What you lose in flash and dash, you gain in respect and trust. Sell the truth and your customers will always be satisfied.

And that's what communications, marketing, and public relations should be all about.

Your thoughts? Do you expect promotional efforts to mirror the quality of the product? Do you trust ad men and women, or do you think it's all about the lies? If so, how do we fix the industry to make trust a valued commodity?

Questions Answered

How do I build customer trust?

How honest should I be in advertising?

Is there truth in advertising?



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