Have you seen the movie “Her” starring Joaquin Phoenix? In the movie, set in 2025, Phoenix plays a guy named Theodore, a lonely introverted man going through a divorce. Don’t worry, I won’t give anything away if you haven’t seen it yet. The part I want to highlight revolves around Theodore’s job. Theodore works for a company that hires professional writers to compose intimate, heartfelt letters for people who don’t want to (or can’t figure out how to) write personal notes to people in their lives. It’s a very interesting movie. You should check it out.
Looking past the sad commentary on society where a business like that could survive (and you probably don’t have to fast forward to 2025 to conceive of how a service like that would make it) I love the premise: hiring someone to create personal messages for you.
You see, in the marketing world there’s constant talk about the difference between doing Business-to-Consumer (B2C) marketing and Business-to-Business (B2B) marketing. Each way of doing marketing has its nuances and uses different strategies to get a compelling message to someone who would benefit from the product or service.
Add into the mix what our clients do, Government-to-Citizen (G2C) marketing, and the different ways of doing marketing start to become pretty complex.
With all the different strategies in B2B, B2C, and G2C, a new hybrid (evolution?) of marketing is starting to emerge. People who study these sorts of things are starting to boil down marketing strategy to its fundamental core. What they’ve begun calling this new strategy is: Human-to-Human (H2H).
Basically, H2H marketing seeks to take the confusion out of marketing. The goal is to try to utilize the same communication principles you use with your friends when chatting over dinner:
- Don’t use buzz-words or jargon dumps. Get rid of the corporate robot-speak and engage me in a conversation.
- Make things entertaining. Tell a story that moves me.
- Don’t just tell me that this will make my life better, let me know why I should even care in the first place.
- If a mistake is made, own up to it, ask for forgiveness and tell me how you are going to fix the situation.
- Don’t assume that demographic information defines who I am.
If you think about it, this is what effective communication is all about. It’s not exactly rocket science, but those of us who communicate for a living seem to have lost our way at some point. It’s true for the private sector and it’s true for the government. We need to take a lesson from “Her” on this and start thinking about how we craft our messages as if we were composing them for someone we deeply care about.
Here are 7 tips to think about as you work to transform your communications to be more H2H friendly:
- First and foremost, people matter! Let’s face it. It’s the information age. We have lots of information that has to get out there. But simply dumping a bunch of information on someone is not a very good way to get them engaged. When you have important information to communicate, think about how you can make it appeal to systemic human desires like being part of something bigger than yourself, feeling connected to others, or our desire for adventure. Remember, people respond to vision. They rarely take action because of facts and figures. The Army understands this. Tourism departments get it. Think about how your organization can connect with people on a deeper level. Don’t fall into the trap of just dumping information out there and hope people will take it to heart.
- Think about your end goal. Speaking of people, think about what the end goal of your organization is. Is it to reduce crime? Is it to get more people to start small businesses? Is it to get more people to get tested for diabetes? Your organization, no doubt, has some fantastic goals and I bet all of them, in some way, are about making people’s lives better. If you can tie your communication back to these goals, it’s a win-win. The organization meets its mission critical goals and people take the actions you need them to take.
- Communicate with emotion and personality. I know how it is. Sometimes the way you communicate is out of your hands. You might be statutorily required to phrase something a certain way. You might have a legal department who needs to approve every word you write. In those situations, you might just have to resign to the way things have to be. But in all other circumstances, push back to remove boring tech speak from your communications. It’s not compelling and it doesn’t get you to that end goal we talked about earlier. And, let’s face it, life’s too short to not have a little good-natured fun every once in awhile.
- When thinking H2H, remember H2H=H+H: Humor and Humility. Take 5 seconds and think about the 3 friends you love being around the most. I bet boredom and arrogance are not words you associate with them. Levity brings the mood up and humility opens up space for forgiveness and acceptance. If you can establish an atmosphere of humor and humility you will go a long way toward growing your audience, moving them to action and giving you grace if an issue does arise.
- Images communicate what words cannot. As much as you can, include imagery in your communications. If you’re speaking, tell a relatable story. If you’re writing, include images about what you’re talking about. If it’s the web…well, if you aren’t using images on the web yet, we probably need to have a “back-to-the-basics” discussion. Did you know that the eyes can communicate information faster than any of the other senses? Check out this article about research MIT is doing about the processing power of your eyes.
- Design matters. At the heart of civilization is the compelling need to make organization out of chaos. Design is at the heart of who we are. It’s why everyone ooh’s and ahh’s over the latest Apple product or why people will pay money to go to an auto show. We like things that are beautiful. We like structure. We like things that are engineered to be simple. If your communications don’t look nice, people will write off the information. Spend the time (or money) to make things look good. It pays dividends in the long run.
- Deliver messaging that’s tailored to the specific desires of your audience. Always remember that you’re not simply the summation of your demographic information. You’re an individual and so is your audience. You need to find ways to deliver the most customized message you can to the recipient. When a friend tells you a story about her weekend, she tells you about specific details that she knows will be relevant to you. In doing that, it allows you to enter into the story. When developing your communications strategy, think about the data you will need to collect to give people exactly what they want and find systems that allow you to store and access that information so you can deliver something that’s relevant and compelling. Your audience will appreciate it and will be more likely to absorb what you’re telling them.
There you have it, my 7 tips for moving your communications to a H2H model. Tell me what I’m missing or how you’ve started to do H2H communications within your organization in the comments below.