Too often we get caught up in the story we want people to know and we forget to get caught up in how they want to listen.
Late last year, Coca-cola ran a campaign on their vending machines in New Zealand.
A simple sign mixing Maori and English.
Kia Ora, mate.
Kia Ora meaning “Welcome” in Maori.
Mate meaning, “Friend” in English.
Unfortunately, “mate” (pronounced mah-teh) means “death” in Maori.
Said the internet.
Coca-cola wanted to say, “We’re being friendly. Share a smile with a friend. This is happiness in a bottle.”
Some people heard, “Hello Death”. As one wag on social media said, “While high-sugar soft drinks aren’t great, especially for dental health, they are not, as far I know, immediately lethal.”
And while this may seem like a one-off story we can all laugh at, many, many communicators still spend a lot of time telling customers what they want to tell them without first engaging them. Sometimes people just need to know. Which is why public toilets just have a woman symbol and a man symbol, and not signs reading “Take a load off your feet, and your bladder.” The need is immediate. The symbols are recognised. It’s easy.
What’s your story?
Sometimes people just aren’t as interested in what you have to say as you are.
If the need is not immediate, how do you break into their headspace in a way they’ll appreciate and remember?
Make it relevant.
Recognise their concerns.
Make it charming. Or humorous. Or witty. Or quirky.
Tell them a story they want to hear, not the facts you want to tell them.
People remember stories they heard thirty years ago.
They don’t remember what was said in a meeting two days ago.
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