Don’t Fall Into the “I Failed to Communicate” Trap

Don’t Fall Into the “I Failed to Communicate” Trap


Lee Iacocca, the former American automobile executive once said, “You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.” He was absolutely correct!

A recent study conducted by the Project Management Institute (PMI) revealed that ineffective communication has a negative impact on successful project execution. Here are some of the study’s findings.

Companies risk $135 million for every $1 billion spent on a project and new research indicates that $75 million of that $135 million (56 percent) is put at risk by ineffective communications, indicating a critical need for organizations to address communications deficiencies at the enterprise level.

According to the Grasshopper Blog, here are some of the biggest communication failures brands have ever made:

Toyota Product Recalls. When Toyota finally decided to recall millions of cars due to faulty brakes, it was already too late. After downplaying the problem for as long as possible, their hand was forced when Consumer Reports withdrew their recommendations of 8 Toyota vehicles. Although the situation was eventually fully handled, failing to accept responsibility from the outset affected how customers perceived Toyota’s brand.  A HUGE FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE!

BP’s Oil Spill. BP caused the legendary oil spill that stretched across the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Their PR strategy included airing a number of expensive commercials and apologizing at every chance they got–something the public found disingenuous. Ultimately, they received criticism from President Obama and others, who said the money they put into the ads should have been put into cleaning up the mess. Tony Hayward of BP also made the fatal mistake of saying he wanted his life back, which showed a blatant lack of respect for those who had actually lost their lives in the explosion.  A HUGE FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE!

KFC Coupon Riots. KFC worked closely with Oprah Winfrey to promote a new line of chicken. When Oprah offered free coupons on her website, KFC didn’t properly estimate the overwhelming response the “Oprah Effect” would create. Customers were understandably angry when they didn’t get their free chicken, and KFC had to reimburse them with rain checks.  A HUGE FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE!

In my experience, one of the worst offenders of poor communication are the many public relations or public affairs offices of government and business offices. I’ve worked in more than a few and I would give most of them an “F” for their communications efforts. People tend to talk or write AT each other when they should be talking or writing TO each other. Another thing.  People do not LISTEN enough anymore.  You can blame layers of bureaucracy where people at the top (those who approve projects) don’t communicate directly with the people at the bottom (those who create the projects). A lot gets lost in having too many middle managers who try to communicate the messages from the top of an organization to those at the bottom of an organization by going through intermediaries.

Whether you are speaking to an audience, writing content for a website, creating a newsletter, brochure or advertisement, or simply having a conversation with one or more people, articulating a thought or an idea is harder than it sounds.  Especially in the business world.

Business communication or marketing communications, (MarCom) is a fundamental and complex part of a company’s marketing efforts. Loosely defined, MarCom can be described as all the messages and media you deploy to communicate with the market about your product or service.

There are many important points that should be remembered when it comes to business or marketing communications.  Here are five of them.

  • People do not attend a speech or read your literature because they like you personally. They do so because they want to know “What’s In It For Them”. If you do not capture their attention with the first words out of your mouth or the first words they read from something you have written, you might as well toss in the towel because you have lost their attention. You have to get your audience or reader’s attention immediately.   Instead of starting off by telling an audience “Thank you for inviting me here today”, why not come out and say in a loud voice, “Everyone raise their hands if you are interested in learning how to make more money today”.   Or instead of starting a written product with the usual blather, why not have your first sentence say, “SO…do you want to know how to double your sales in 12 months or less?”  These are examples of how to get any sane person’s attention right away.
  • Be sincere. Mold your entire speech or content writing around the “bottom Line”. People have better things to do than hear or read you blowing smoke at them. Marketing and business communications is an animal of a whole different breed when it comes to talking or writing about what a company has to do to double or triple their bottom line. Just as you would make eye contact with your audience when delivering a speech, you must also make eye contact with a reader perusing something you have written. Someone once said, “Say it loud. Say it proud.” Don’t beat around the bushes. If you have done your research correctly, and you know what sells and what doesn’t sell, then just say it. Or just write it. Tell them how to create a win-win sales plan. Tell them how to create specific and measurable sales goals. Tell them how to target their accounts and set timelines. There is no silver bullet. If they have a great product….it will sell.
  • Broadcast your advantage. What makes you better than anyone else in the industry? If you can figure that one out, it would be the equivalent of tossing sevens and 11’s in a craps table at a casino. Or counting cards in Blackjack. Your product or service needs a gimmick that will sound so attractive consumers will rush right out and buy it. What makes a good marketing plan? Market focus. Product focus. Concrete, measurable specifics. Responsibility and accountability. Implementation. Reviews and revisions to take into account the fast paced technological world we live in. Do your research and determine your target audience and then give them what you would want to be given to you if you were in their shoes.
  • Know your competition like you know your significant other. Or your best friend. Know what dynamics influence your market. Are there potential partners that can help you reach your target audience? There is no need to reinvent the wheel here. What product or service already satisfies your market, and then move three steps above them. Whether it is discounts, warranties, double your money back. Lifetime guarantees. Free shipping. Or whatever. Throw some incentives in the mix on top of your already superior product and service.
  • Finally, you MUST have patience, patience and more patience to win over your potential customers. A failure to be patient will cause many to alter or stray from their original communication plans – often with disastrous results. If your communications plan is solid – if the recipe isn’t broken – don’t try to fix it.