Marketing Messages that Connect During a Crisis

We are in a totally different world right now.

Many of us are working from home and the future seems hazy. Perhaps you’re struggling to make decisions about staffing or future projects. But like a forest fire restarts growth, crisis moments can bring a new birth for your business. And that starts with how you communicate with customers.

Others-Focused Communication

In our unending-news-cycle world, much of what we hear seems like noise.

But now, more than ever, it is crucial for you to connect with people in meaningful ways. Want to send business messages that are well received? Use an OTHERS-centered paradigm.

O = ONE

Write for one person.

When you craft a message, imagine yourself speaking to one specific client. Pick out a single buyer and pretend you’re writing only for them. This helps you ditch the sanitized corporate-speak and makes your reader the focus of your message (rather than you!).

People connect to messages that are specific, personal, and conversational.

T = TRANSPARENCY

Embrace transparency to become relatable.

People may admire you for your strengths, but they connect with you through your weaknesses. Vulnerability ushers in humility and makes you instantly relatable to your audience. Transparency means letting people know how your business is doing or what has changed for you during this taxing season. You don’t have to air all your dirty laundry, just take an open, communicative posture. Now is not the time to go silent!

H= HELPFUL

Speak to their needs, not your own.

What messages are most helpful to your customers at this time? While you could send a five-star handwashing tutorial, perhaps what is needed is advice to parents on talking to their kids, or how your company is adding flexibility to meet customer needs.

Don’t be afraid to push others to success. If your clients seem fearful or tentative, perhaps your encouragement will be the fuel they need to get back in the game or to push a stalled project to completion.

E = EMPATHETIC

Make their problem your problem.

Maya Angelou once said, “people will forget what you said, people forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  

How does your messaging make people feel? Does it sound hard or templated? Or does it communicate true concern and a willingness to help? Your tone should sound something like this: “If it’s your problem, it’s my problem too, and we’ll work together to find a solution.”

R = RELEVANT

Timing matters.

The relevance of your messaging applies not only to its topic but its timing. Sending pre-scheduled content with no regard to how it will land during hardships is a sure way to demonstrate you’ve lost touch with your base. Reach out to customers and find out how they’re doing, then adapt your messages accordingly.

S = SINCERE

If you say or do something, mean it!

This may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how often people talk just to hear their own voices. Using content just to fill space will strike people as stale and insincere. Instead, go out of your way to be helpful and kind without seeking a reward for doing so.

What Social Distance Can’t Overpower

Since you may not see customers directly for weeks to come, today is the time to make your website and print materials as “social distancing” friendly as possible.

By focusing on others with a relatable, helpful approach, you’ll connect with people one by one in ways that are sincere and inspiring. And nothing is more effective than that.

4 Strategies to Curb Communication Breakdowns

They say that the only sure thing about communication is that we tend to get it wrong.

If communication between two family members is a challenge, how much harder is communication at work? Have you ever experienced a team “fail” like this?

  • After meetings, people don’t seem to know what was said or what’s coming next. It’s like the meeting never occurred.
  • After training on a new procedure, only one person recalls the protocol.
  • Following a brainstorming session, everyone assumes someone else is covering the “next step.” The ball is dropped, resulting in blame, disillusionment, and embarrassment.

Make Your Messages Stick

Everyone knows communication is critical to success.

To run a thriving business, employees, managers, and CEOs need to communicate clearly and effectively. Unfortunately, there are hundreds of short circuits in this process, which can result in angry employees, difficult HR situations, and lost profit.

What can you do to improve team communication? Here are a few suggestions from some of today’s best leaders:

1. Kick Silo Doors Open

Many teams work well together but fail to communicate with the larger organization.

Communication silos occur when people in different departments don’t collaborate or connect to the bigger company vision. Enon Landenberg, founder and CEO of tech consulting company sFBI, says this is common:

“It’s very possible for departments to focus too much on their own work and miss out on the big ideas that only come from collaboration,” Landenberg said. “Egos [can prevent] honest discussions about the quality of work, necessary improvements and fresh ideas.”

To avoid this problem, send weekly briefings to the entire company and regularly schedule time for divisions or leaders to connect on projects, questions, or suggestions.

2. Limit Email Communication

When employees receive too many emails, they will start forgetting and ignoring the information they receive.

According to Jeff Corbin, founder and CEO of APPrise Mobile, urgent messages should always be relayed by phone or in person. And when it comes to email conversations, Corbin says this:

“[I follow] the three-email rule: After three messages, we talk.”

Simplify not only the amount of email but the language you use. When technical jargon abounds, you increase the chance for errors because people can’t understand you!

3. Squash the Gossip

News travels quickly, especially if it’s bad.

Some rumors are just silly, but many contain an exaggerated seed of truth. Managers should address issues head-on rather than mopping up messes later. Even if you can’t share all the details, giving people a snapshot of the situation will build confidence and quiet dissension.

4. Lead Engaging Meetings

When people fail to listen, their minds are probably elsewhere. 

The burden of communication is yours, so make meetings concise and engaging. Share the purpose of a meeting immediately, and conclude with assignments and action steps. Train managers to share only the most essential information and to use stories to illustrate a point. (e.g. “Yesterday, I got a phone call from our largest shareholder, and guess what they said?”)

Megachurch pastor Craig Groeschel says this:

“Work to keep your meetings small and your communication large. Too many [leaders] make the mistake of including too many people in too many meetings. The purpose of the meeting determines its size and . . . [it is important to] keep the discussion moving. Maintain a sense of polite urgency, pushing hard enough to keep the meeting moving but not so hard that discussion and decision-making is rushed.”

Eliminating miscommunication can head off a whole host of problems, so be intentional and make improvements each day!

4 Nonverbal Communication Hacks to Streamline Your Success

“Few realize how loud their expressions really are. Be kind with what you wordlessly say.” 
― Richelle E. Goodrich, Making Wishes

Do you appreciate it when you are telling a story and your listener sneaks a peek at their watch? How about when you ask your child for help with a chore and they mumble a begrudging “yes” while dramatically rolling their eyes?

Communication is a nuanced endeavor.

Whether you’re using hundreds of words or simply standing in silence, you are in constant communication with those around you. Experts estimate that a minimal amount of communication happens through the exchange of words, while up to 93% occurs through tone, expression, and gestures.

Nonverbal interactions are our primary mode of communication (coming so naturally, even the smallest child has it mastered), and it is difficult to “fake.” Nonverbals usually tell the truth, even when our words are lies.

Be a Better Communicator in Your Professional Environment

Here are four interesting strategies to use nonverbal communication to your advantage.

1. Break the Tension

In moments of high tension, people feel more defensive when they sense you are trying to “win.”

Nodding your head during a conversation communicates that you are listening and making an active attempt to understand an opposing point. Nodding can also win people over to your viewpoint, as people subconsciously mirror the body language of those around them. When you nod while speaking, it adds authenticity to your words and makes people more likely to compromise with you in heated situations.

2. Understand the Relational Bonds in the Room

Sometimes the quickest way to grow trust in a group is to figure out where loyalties lie.

One trick is to watch for eye contact. When a group of people laughs, members of the group can’t help but make eye contact with the people they feel close to.

Another clue is the direction of a person’s feet. In group conversations, if the feet of the listener are pointed at the person speaking, it conveys interest and respect. If the listener’s feet are pointed away, it often shows they are disinterested or disconnected.

3. Communicate Confidence Even When You are Nervous

If projecting confidence can determine the outcome of your conversation, how can you add weight to your nonverbals?

Confidence is something you can practice before you enter a room. Research shows that the use of “power poses” (placing your hands on your hips, standing tall with your chin raised, or raising your fists above your head), can trick your brain into feeling more confident. Do this for 30 seconds before a meeting, and you’ll walk into a room with more natural confidence, resulting in a smoother conversation and a more poised disposition.  

4. Increase Influence Without Saying a Word

Sometimes the biggest distractions in a conversation are the fillers.

To establish trust while listening, avoid needless “noise” like pacing, tapping your foot, or fidgeting with your hands or pen. When you ask a question, and someone is slow to respond, resist the urge to jump back in. Remain silent for a few extra beats to show you respect this person’s thought process and that you’re confident in moments of negotiation. Quieting your impulses also helps you come across as competent and in control.

A Springboard for Success

These tips won’t make you a communication ninja, but streamlining these natural cues can help you better understand the relationships of those around you.

Intentionally sharpen your nonverbal skills, and you will build your network and streamline a path to success!

How to Use Silence to Strengthen Your Leadership Presence

Jack Reacher is a fictional character in a series of crime thriller novels by British author Lee Child.

In the 1997 novel Killing Floor, Reacher randomly exits a Greyhound bus in Georgia and is later arrested in a local diner for a murder he did not commit. While questioned in custody, Reacher wields the power of silence to maintain his personal advantage:

“Long experience had taught me that absolute silence is the best way. Say something, and it can be misheard. Misunderstood. Misinterpreted. It can get you convicted. It can get you killed. Silence upsets the arresting officer. He has to tell you silence is your right but he hates it if you exercise that right. I was being arrested for murder. But I said nothing.”

Communicate Authority with Silence

Silence holds immense power, especially in situations that involve negotiation.

As inventor and artist Leonardo da Vinci said, “Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence.” Dynamic leaders often use silence to their benefit. When handled with intention and purpose, silence is what some leaders call “a communication superpower.”

Do you tend to interrupt, dominate conversations, or explain your perspective from multiple angles in order to sway opinion? If silence is an overlooked resource in your communication toolkit, you might need to change strategies.

Silence can increase your authority and grow your influence in at least four powerful ways.

Silence Builds Trust

According to best-selling author Bryant H. McGill, “one of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.”

If you want to develop effective relationships, you must build trust. And trust begins with listening. Unfortunately, most people don’t listen with the intent to hear, they listen with the intent to reply. When people realize you are truly listening to them, they are much more likely to buy into your ideas.

Silence Can Emphasize Your Point

When you have something important to say, state it briefly and allow a long pause for your words to sink in.

Communication is more than the words we speak, it involves the energy we transmit. When you give room for a lengthy pause, you show people you aren’t scrambling to convince them. And as your words fully land with others, you don’t need to talk as much because silence creates room for people to understand and connect to what you are saying.

Silence Communicates Credibility

Have you ever sat through a meeting where several people squabbled while one person stayed silent?

Eventually, everyone felt tension and curiosity about what the quiet party was thinking. When a silent observer finally interjects an opinion, it speaks louder than the clamor and carries a more memorable quality. “She is so wise,” people think, because sometimes there is a credibility that can only be communicated through silence.

Also, it never hurts to take a lengthy period of time to think before commenting. Abraham Lincoln has been credited with this quote: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.”

Silence Increases Negotiating Power

A primary negotiation tactic involves asking a question and letting the other person answer first.

Silence when negotiating can give you the advantage because its “deafening” weight can prompt others to speak first. For example, when the other party offers a salary figure or point of compromise, don’t answer immediately. Instead, pause and let the discomfort of silence flush out a bit more detail. Maybe they will offer more or show their own hand.

Leaders know how to use silence as a tactic to communicate authority and influence. Experiment with silence during your conversations and observe the impact it can make.

Four Ways to Disagree with Tact

Life is compromise.

If you want to work successfully in teams, at some point you will face conflict. In one instance, you may be the manager correcting a team member. In other cases, you may need to “lead up” by disagreeing with a superior.

Either way, successful communication includes the ability to navigate conflict while putting people before the problem.

Here are four ways to prioritize relationship while politely disagreeing.

1. Don’t Blurt

When you hear an incorrect statement, do you immediately or forcefully disagree?

How’s that working for you?

Before you speak, consider how important it is to voice your opinion. Weigh the risks of speaking out versus the risks of staying silent. If you feel compelled to share, consider when and where is best. What context would be most appropriate or what channel would provide the least threatening avenue for your listener? Discussing issues privately (face-to-face) is ideal for minimizing tension or preserving dignity.

2. Prepare Your Listener

Sometimes the best way to dissent is by prefacing your idea.

Ask permission to comment by saying something like this: “I’m not sure I share your opinion, may I make a comment?” Or, “I know the deadline is pressing, but I’m concerned about this approach. Can I run some thoughts by you?”

Giving people a chance to “opt-in” will increase their willingness to listen.

3. Keep Language Neutral

As you unwrap your idea, alleviate tension by keeping your tone steady and your language neutral.

Start by identifying a common goal and frame your opinion as one way the team can work together for a higher purpose.

Holly Weeks, author of Failure to Communicate, says contextualizing your statements will allow the discussion to become “more like a chess game than a boxing match.”

If you need to critique another idea, re-articulate that concept first and build comments from there. This will eliminate confusion and show a good faith effort to understand others.

When you disagree directly, make your focus the problem or flaw at hand, not the people or personalities behind them.

4. Be Humble

No one appreciates prideful people.

When you speak, do your best to be relatable and kind. Emphasize that you are sharing an opinion and leave room for dialogue. This may include phrases like, “I’m just thinking out loud here,” or “this is just my opinion, but . . .”

Polite, clarifying questions may also help. Say, “can you tell me more about ____,” or “can you define what you mean by ____, because maybe I’m defining that differently?”

Speak humbly by inviting the critique of others and by publicly respecting their opinions.

Still struggling for words? Business Management Daily offers several prompts to open the door:

  • “I see what you’re saying but…”
  • “May I make a comment?”
  • “I’m sorry but I disagree with you about this.”
  • “Tell me if I’m off-base here, but…”
  • “I understand where you’re coming from, but…”
  • “That’s a valid point, but…”
  • “I don’t think I share your opinion.”
  • “If I’m not mistaken…”

Agree to Disagree

Finally, there may be times it’s best to agree to disagree.

It’s ok to break a stalemate by acknowledging that you will never agree about an idea. By doing this you can affirm the person (or their authority) without selling out to their idea or opinion.

Everyone gets things wrong sometimes, and if you’re committed a relationship, you’ll give people more grace to experiment or to grow.

5 Elements of Stunning Letterhead Design

Personalized mail is a special commodity these days, especially something that looks smart or sophisticated.

And everyone agrees that there’s a huge difference between a typed letter on a bland white page and one aligned smartly on a beautifully designed letterhead.

While many view letterhead as an afterthought, it’s time to raise the standard!

A sharp letterhead can communicate proficiency, increase response rates, and make your communication more memorable. As you craft a unique, professional look, here are some elements to help you cement your image without overplaying your hand:

1. Embrace Simplicity

One of the guiding principles of letterhead design is to make it flow simply.

While it’s important that your letterhead looks and feels great in the hand, it should still play second fiddle to the communication itself. If designs are too bold, you run the risk of competing with the page content to demand reader attention. When in doubt, simple is best.

2. Represent Your Brand

Letterheads present companies with a great opportunity to represent a brand with sharp fonts, crisp logos, and subtle borders or shading.

Look for ways to draw the designs of your website, envelopes, and letterhead into a more cohesive unit and add some extra depth to your marketing mix. When trying out size contrasts, try to balance the shape of your images with the offset to create a connected design.

3. Don’t Be Afraid of White Space

Like silence between musical notes, a break between elements communicates elegance and ensures a quality user experience.

White space is not “wasted” space, instead, it balances elements, organizes content, and creates spatial proximity so your readers can digest information quickly and simply. Use generous amounts of white space between a large heading and a block of subtext. Or experiment all text flush left or flush right to create more white space between margins.

4. Use Colors Wisely

On printed letterhead, nothing communicates like color.

Use color strategically to draw attention to specific areas of your letterhead, or to add subtle shading to a more grayscale design. If your brand features bright and bold colors, it may be best to use color sparingly in the letterhead but more prominently in your envelope design or packaging. Color can make or break the success of your design, so tread lightly.

5. Don’t Overlook Details

The most critical information to communicate in letterhead is your contact info.

Who is writing the letter, a company or an individual? Decide which pieces of information are critical and build your design around this hierarchy. Keep key information obvious and reduce print size for lower priority info. If you are updating designs or re-ordering, take a fresh look at your materials. If the company you are sending to no longer utilizes a fax machine, perhaps it is best to omit this number. If your organization is larger, consider tailoring several letterhead designs to specific departments.

Letterheads remain an integral part of a brand’s marketing mix. Inject new energy into your designs with thoughtful layouts, creative contrasts, or complementary envelopes that keep your messages stand out in a crowd!