I had the good fortune yesterday to address an audience of cable industry communications
It was a panel discussion whose goal was to identify best practices for client-agency partnerships, understand the fast-changing media relations landscape and predict what's next.
I saw the panel as an opportunity to once again ask the marketing and PR types in the audience if they had ever put themselves in their customers' shoes and experienced the brand from the outside in. About half had done so.
I congratulated those who had and suggested that those who hadn't done so do so immediately.
I've come to believe it's impossible to create an effective communications plan unless you literally walk the walk and experience what your customer experiences.
For a cable industry communications executive, that would mean experiencing, say, The History Channel through each and every one of its online and offline touch points. And, it would mean putting oneself in every constituent audience's shoes.
Then, and only then, would a cable executive be able to craft the precise plan with which to engage in a conversation with each and every audience on THEIR terms. That's critical, because it's all about being where they are. "They" being the customer.
Too many organizations still rely solely on quantitative data to inform their branding and messaging communications. That's not only yesterday's approach, it's taking the easy way out.
Smart communicators are beginning to realize the nuances and insights to be gleaned from experiencing the brand BEFORE creating the plan. It may involve some heavy lifting but, trust me, the pain will be worth the gain. I should know. We put ourselves in our customers' shoes and, while the overall experience wasn't bad, we identified areas for improvement and have tweaked our communications program accordingly.
If a PR firm can do it, so can a cable company. Or, any company for that matter. The longest journey begins with a single step.