Advocate before you communicate

aaaaaKeep-CalmIn their pell-mell rush to please the powers-that-be, in-house corporate communicators and their agency brethren are all too happy to take the basic research facts presented to them and blast out an integrated marketing campaign announcing the latest, greatest, shiny object.

We don’t do that. At least, we don’t anymore.

That’s because, after 18 years of trying, we’ve figured out exactly WHY we come to work each day, what our specific purpose in the communications universe is AND how we can best serve our clients and their target audiences.

We advocate before we communicate.

But, and this is a big but, we advocate not only for the client that pays our bills, but for each, and every, constituent audience they wish to reach as well.

So, we listen just as long and hard to a farmer’s wants and needs as we do the food wholesaler trying to sell their seed samples to him. And, we’ll advocate for making a car buyer’s in-store experience more fun just as hard as we’ll push USA Today to profile the client’s cool new campaign.

We’ll do both because to do otherwise might undermine the authenticity and credibility of the messages the client’s hired us to disseminate.

That means, and hold on tight here, we actually put ourselves in an audience’s shoes and experience the client’s brand BEFORE we embark on a new communications effort.

That also means I laugh out loud when I read some of the ads and editorial in PR Week that address big data, the communications economy and the need for rapid engagement.

I’m perfectly fine with other strategic communications firms believing big data provides insights. It does, at times. But, it also leads to lots of generalizations, simplifications and mistakes. That’s one reason why brand loyalty is at all-time low.

I’m also fine with competitors engaging first and listening later on, if at all.

Too few communicators advocate on behalf of the audience. And, that’s fine with me and my firm. It’s our passion. It’s what separates us from others. It also answers the two critical ‘why’ questions:
- Why does your business exist?
- Why do you come to work every day?

It also answers the ‘how’ question:
- How do you contribute to the greater good?

Advocating assures authenticity. And, Virginia, that’s a very good thing.

I’d continue, but I need to walk in the shoes of a hedge fund manager, a time-pressed consumer looking for a quick meal and a parent of a high school student trying to select the right college. It’s time to advocate.

4 thoughts on “Advocate before you communicate

  1. And it all starts with listening. We’re in the running for a whale, competing against four other agencies. We’re most likely the smallest. But we’re in the thick of it because, so far, we’re the only agency that as explicitly specified the need to understand all aspects of the client business before we develop a program. Blows my mind. But if we win it, better for us.

  2. Listening is the only true road to insights. Good luck with the pitch, Bob. I assume Malcolm End will present the creative?

      • Bob,

        In addition to Steve’s business communications, entrepreneurial and comic talents, he has an unerring knack for remembering those we can associate with professional low points. Steve has named at least a dozen Earle Palmer Brown people I’ve spent thousands in analysis trying to forget.