What is your true voice?


What is your true voice?


Your purpose-led strategy is coming into form.  You have answered seven key questions so far.  Now it’s time to do some strategic soul searching regarding who you are. What is the character, voice and personality of your purpose-led organization?  How do you express it with your culture, customers, constituencies and community? To answer this you really need to know thyself. Being purpose-led can genuinely illuminate you who are.

Imagine your business or organization is a person. That person (your business) has a personality and character traits. If you don’t believe this, stop for a moment and picture in your mind American Airlines and what kind of image appears. Now picture Virgin Airlines. Both are airlines, but have completely different personalities. What do you see and feel when you picture Dell? Now think of Apple. Both are ‘computer’ companies, but there is a big difference in personalities. Realizing and capturing the personality of your business will help you transcend old school thinking that every business or organization is only what shows on the ledger sheet or stock index.

Imagine if that person (your business) were to walk into a room. What would he or she look like? Does your business have a gender? What is your business wearing? Subdued grays? Pastels? Earth tones or vibrant colors? Are you formal or casual? How old are you? Are you a listener? Or do you lead the conversation? Are you more verbal or more visual? What kind of car, if any, does your business drive? What is your favorite sport or entertainment? Favorite music? Books? Magazines? Political leanings? Is your business single? Married? Kids? Do you live in the city? Country? What your greatest fear in life? What brings you the greatest joy? Is your business always very serious? Funny? Are you the strong, silent type, or the life of the party? Although all this may sound a bit weird, it is incredibly important. What you are doing is giving your business a human framework. This is necessary when driving your business from a purpose-based foundation. With purpose comes passion. With passion comes humanity. With humanity comes the place where business strips away the veneer of quiet desperation and the protective, suffocating armor it has worn for far too long. A business that performs from a place of purpose must engage the marketplace as a living, breathing entity, not as a financial statement. To trust you and do business with you at this deeper level, your audience needs to know who you are. Therefore, you need to know who you are.

This is an exercise in realizing who you really are and feeling comfortable in that skin. This is about your business capturing its true personality. This is not about building a brand, but building character. This is about making sure your story is told the only way it can be told. Answer this question the way it should be answered and you will find the voice of your marketing and communications to be confident, clear, and welcomed by your marketplace.

Here are some examples of models Madison Avenue often uses to frame a business or organization:

• The down-to-earth, family oriented, genuine, old-fashioned type. This they call “sincerity.” Sincerity brands are Hallmark, Kodak, and sometimes Coca-Cola. The relationship is akin to one that resides with a well-liked and respected member of the family.

• The spirited, young, up-to-date outgoing type. Pepsi goes after this type. This relationship would be spending a weekend night with a friend who is young and spirited.

The accomplished, influential, competent type. Hewlett Packard and The Wall Street Journal are this type. This relationship is one you would have with a person you respect for what he has achieved. Business computer marketing often strives for this relationship with their customers.

The pretentious, wealthy, condescending type. BMW, Mercedes, Lexus fit this mold. This relationship is like the one you would have with a powerful CEO or wealthy relative.

The athletic and outdoorsy type. Nike, Marlboro and Wells Fargo fit in here. This relationship is one you would have when coordinating an outing with a good friend who loves the outdoors.

These “types” are just a sampling of the matrixes, models, methodologies and magic that traditional brand builders bring to the purpose-less brand party. Stay away from this stuff, no matter how tempting it may be. The power of your purpose is that it transcends types and models. Your personality is your personality.

What Is Your Voice?

Begin now to visualize your business or organization as a person. Describe that person in as great detail as possible. Create a personality study of your business. Capture its strengths in personality as well as its weaknesses. Begin by asking yourself, if your business walked into the room, would it appear as a male or female? Answering this key question no doubt will set the stage for how you continue to pro- file the human aspects of your business. Then begin to shape that complete person. Be as literal or cerebral as you need to be. Describe your organization’s day from the moment it gets out of bed to when it puts its head on the pillow at the end of the day. This process can begin to describe everything from do you wake up to an alarm or naturally? If it is an alarm –is it music, a beep or a Zen gong? What do you have for breakfast? Do you even have breakfast? You can have fun with this. But make sure the fun always reflects the purpose of your business. When you have captured your voice, you are ready for the next question: What tools do you need to tell the truth?



What do you truly want to happen?


What do you truly want to happen?


You’ve made your promise. You’ve made your case. Your audience believes in you. Now, what do you want them to do? This question is deceptively simple. The first reaction is, well, buy my product. Or hire my services. Or, support my idea. But, unless you have a contract in hand, your customer across the table, or in the check out line, or just pressing ‘purchase’, how do you prompt the kind of action that will lead to gaining and retaining them as a customer or champion. You can have a beautifully designed web site or brochure, an exquisitely produced video, and an irresistible direct mail piece or banner ad, but there’s no clear call to action. The recipient has to guess what you want him to do. You can’t assume that your customers will know why they should act, how they should, or when they must act.

Take a look at the vast number of late night infomercials. They work. They pound away at the viewer to call a toll-free number with their credit card number in hand. And if you call right now, they’ll also provide you with a free gift with your purchase, but only if you act immediately. This formula, as annoying as the experience is, works. And it can work for you, even if you are in the most elegant of message settings, whether you are communicating on the web, over the airwaves, in a print ad, or at a fundraising luncheon. The shift from ‘annoying’ to ‘attracting’ happens when your call to action is led by a noble purpose.

Your call to action can be remarkably easy, such as “order today.” Or it could be an ongoing, planned out step-by step process. If your intent is to prompt a purchase or contribution, try to skip the “call for more information” and directly ask your audience to purchase your product, enlist your services, or support your initiative.

Let your primary audience know when and how to contact you. Unless you’re involved in a unique or time-sensitive marketing endeavor, it’s best to create a sense of immediacy. Customers forget quickly, so the sooner you can get them to respond, the better. Also, traditionally call-to-actions lines come at the end of a marketing   message. Put your call to action throughout your story. Do it with the passion you unearthed when you captured your purpose. Your purpose-led call to action must be sincere, genuine, and from the heart.

An effective call to action can change results 20 to 30 percent. Make sure your call to action is sensitive and respectful of where your audience currently is in your relationship with them. This could mean that your call to action is evolutionary. Are your customers learning more about a problem? Experiencing a demonstration? Studying data? Presented with a time-sensitive offer? Is your call ‘action-oriented’? Does it ask, “learn how” or “learn now”?

Here are some examples of often-applied calls to action:

Call (number) to learn more.

Call (number of specific person) and speak to (actual name) to learn more.

Call to make an appointment.

Call for a free consultation.

Call for our free brochure.

Call for our free video/DVD.

Call toll free and order now.

Call toll free and order now and save ($)

Call toll free, order now and get (premium). Visit our web site to learn more.

Visit our web site and download a free brochure.

Visit our web site and click ‘free’ for your special gift.

Visit our web site to learn about our trial offer.

Redeem this coupon.

Visit our showroom.

Make reservations tonight.

Make a donation by writing to:

To volunteer, call -

For a free kit, call or write or visit our web site.

Please share.

Please like.

Please follow.

You get the message. There are myriad ways to prompt action from your audience. Sometimes it can be very specific and price or time sensitive, other times very general and philosophical/values based.

What Is Your Call to Action?

Look at your business. Look at your purpose. Review your competitive and collaborative climates. Get to know your primary audience and other audiences as well as possible. Look at your promise to that audience. Look at how you have earned their trust and belief in that promise. Based on these observations, what is the ideal next step you want your audience to perform? Is it simply a matter of visiting your web site to learn more about you? Or are you in a place where you are asking for the sale or donation? How do you make that happen in the most pain-free way for your audience? How do you make that happen so that you begin to build a long-lasting relationship? What’s your call to action? Is it one easy step? Or is this the first step in a long courtship? Make sure your call to action reflects the values of your business. And make sure it is something you can deliver and fulfill.  Once you have that in place, you can begin to answer the question ‘What is your true voice?’



Why should they truly trust you?


Why should they truly trust you?


Now that you have developed your purpose-led promise statement to your primary audience, why should they believe you?

Your promise to your core constituency is that special thing only you can do for them. Whatever your promise, it needs to be believed. No matter how inspiring your proposition is, it must be soaked in truth and validation. Why should people have faith you? Why should your primary benefit be trusted? What are the support points and facts that validate your proposition? These are your reasons to believe. They are the facts that make your promise legitimate. If you tell your audience, “We are the best at what we do,” that just won’t cut it. You need to get specific as to why you are the best. Real facts. Real figures. Real examples. Data. Testimonials. Success stories. The proof.

Feel free to go back to your review of features and benefits. Many of your features will find a home in your list of reasons to believe. What you need to do is translate each and every one of your features into a benefit. If a car is “guaranteed to go without breakdown for five years,” the company needs to let its audience know why that’s a good thing for them. You may be so close to your features that you obviously know the benefits. But it may not be so obvious to your primary audience. Your reasons to believe will actually be a compilation of other benefit statements, all pledging allegiance to your primary benefit.

Your promise may have just one or two support points. For example, you may make the claim, “This hybrid car not only gets 65 mpg, but also seats 7.” Your support point is the official, sealed mpg rating report and the actual seat count inside the car. However, if you claim, “This hybrid car is the most comfortable hybrid car on the market,” you need to go deeper with your reasons to believe. You may have to see if there are actual “comfort meters” or “comfort indexes” that you can refer to. You may have to get hundreds of testimonials from owners who swear this car is the most comfortable. You may have to list, outline, and explain all the features and benefits of the car that help make it comfortable. Let those benefits support your claim and let your customer then determine if that all adds up to the most comfort.

Some of the businesses I have worked with have one, incredibly powerful fact that drives their promise into the receptive hearts and minds of their audience. Other business and organizations have pages upon pages of support points. When there is so much validation, it’s always good to prioritize. Give your top five reasons to believe. Be as efficient as possible in sharing the facts. If your core constituency wants to know more, then go deeper with the facts and figures. Sometimes, the nature of a product or service or idea requires complex validations in order to earn trust. This is fine if your audience has that kind of attention span and time to devote to your proposition. But often it doesn’t. My suggestion is that, ideally, you should be able to state your promise and present memorable powerful reasons to believe in 200 words or less, about a two-minute presentation. And for those short stairway statement opportunities or fast moving network event, write a version of your ‘promise and proof’ that’s expressed in just 30 seconds or a 140-character tweet.



Stay true to your word.


Stay true to your word.


Purpose: check.   Core audience: check.  Competitive and collaborative climate: check. Primary benefit statement: check

Now, it’s time to be true to your word.

What single word best captures your benefit and message? Before you commit to your word, you also have to abide by this rule: the word must be present in your primary benefit statement.

This is the question where the poet in an organization can get a bit fulfilled. The idea of boiling down your promise to just one word displays an appreciation of the power and significance of words usually absent in the language of business. Look at your promise statement and from it choose the word that best captures the essence of your promise. The selection of your key word will drive the form, content, character, and creativity of your communications. This word will become the fulcrum point for your story.

This is the question where the planning team around the table is pulled in two directions. The first is the desire to achieve something they have really never done before, i.e. capture the real meaning of their message in one word. The other is the notion that capturing what they are all about with one word isn’t possible, that a complex, multi-faceted, diverse organization can’t be defined so simply. It’s this tension that galvanizes thinking on the part of the team and results not only in the business finding its word but also the team finding itself on the same page.

The determination of a key word sets in motion the development of incredibly focused and innovative communication solutions. You may think that narrowing it all down to one single word is stifling, limiting, and will shackle the imagination. Quite the opposite occurs. This precise selection of one word is actually liberating. It structures the frame for creating communications, but not the creative itself. All too often communication concepts are created in a void and end up being communications for communications sake. Or, they emerge from such a thick, complex brief that the big idea looks thick and complex. The absolute clarity and focus provided by your key word results in crystal-clear, focused but still highly creative conceptual solutions.

Bear in mind, the actual word you select is not necessarily going to be in your tagline, headlines, copy and every piece of messaging you create. But, it might. More often, the intent and meaning of the word will be present in your communications. If you choose elegant as your key word, it’s not a given that the word elegant would ever be present in your communication materials. But the meaning of elegant would be present in your materials. Or, if you choose the word responsible as your key word, you may well determine that it should literally be present in your story, no matter where or how it is being told.

The word you pick will indeed make all the difference in the emotional and intellectual qualities of your message. Think of how you react to “Living the American Dream” versus “Living the American Future.” The response to the word dream is quite a bit different than the word future. Taking the dream theme further, imagine if Dr. King announced, “I have a strategic goal” instead of “I have a dream”? It takes you to a totally different place, doesn’t it?

Choosing and embracing your key word is where you will sow the seeds of success or failure. Your word choice will change meaningless meanderings into powerfully steady statements. Consider the weight or intent of your word as well. Don’t hedge your words. What a difference it makes to say “I should,” or “I ought to,” versus “I will.”

Make sure your word stays true to the meaning of the word. Words have connotative and denotative meanings. The denotative meaning is the dictionary meaning, the one that we all refer to when trying to learn or understand language. For example, take the word car. It’s denotative meaning is a road vehicle, usually with four wheels and powered by an internal-combustion engine, designed to carry a small number of passengers. Then there is the connotative definition. This is the meaning each of us has in our heads and attaches to the word upon hearing or reading it. Someone who hears the word car most likely will see her perception of a car. It could be a Porsche or a Kia or a Lincoln Town Car or an SUV, Tesla or hybrid. It could represent where a first kiss took place or it could conjure up a tragic moment. The reaction is not common to all, but a perception and realization based on the individual’s context. To add clarity we begin to add adjectives and adverbs: fast car, cool car, sexy car, functional car, or economic car.

The significance of the connotative meaning of a word is its powerful emotional content. Your primary audience will react emotionally rather than intellectually when they encounter the word. For example, look at the word mouse. Its traditional denotative meaning is a small rodent found all over the world that has a brown or grayish-brown coat and a long mostly hairless tail. Not very emotional or engaging, right? Now think of Minnie Mouse, Mighty Mouse, Mickey Mouse, Jerry Mouse, Pinky and the Brain, Stuart Little, Remy, The Three Blind Mice, The City Mouse, the Country Mouse, and Of Mice and Men. All can be vivid and emotional and connotative expressions of mice that go way beyond the denotative meaning.

The greatest impact of words comes from using the connotative meanings to affect an audience’s emotional response. One reason for this is that you try to debate, argue with, or mathematically dissect emotions – but you will find it extra difficult because they don’t gravitate to the land of logic. Embrace and employ your word this way and your audience will align with you at an emotional level, which will strengthen your intellectual relationship with them as well. The key is to make the emotional connection true and authentic. Capture it in the truest sense of the word. The worse thing you can do is use the power of your word to spin, manipulate and skirt the truth.

Emotions aside, words play an undeniable role in our world. You’re probably Googling a word as you are reading this. Relationships, knowledge, and commerce all are being shaped, formed, and fueled, often by one word. Frank Outlaw wrote: “ Watch your thoughts, they become your words. Watch your words, they become your actions. Watch your actions, they become your habits. Watch your habits, they become your character. Watch your character, for it will become your destiny.”

With this inspiration, begin the process of determining your key word. Begin by reviewing your benefit statement, your final answer to the previous question. What you have crafted here serves up what you have as potential key words. Remember, your key word must be embedded somewhere in that statement. To show how this works, here is a working example. Consider the benefit statement:

We can personally help you achieve financial health and freedom.

There are ten words to choose from for the key word.

What a difference it will make if you choose the word freedom instead of any of the others. Or personally, instead of financial. The selection of any one of these words will take your communications down a very distinct path. That path will be entirely devoted to communicating your complete benefit statement, but the view from the path will be impacted by the key word. In this example, the bank chose the word personally. The meaning of the word personally will run throughout all their communications and operations. Although the word itself isn’t present in the bank’s tag line, its meaning is loud and clear.

Go back and take a look at your benefit statement. Make sure it’s the one you can commit to. Then be extremely deliberative in choosing your key word. Write down why you chose that one word over the others. Write a working definition of that word based on your business and your purpose. Develop a connotative and denotative definition of your word. Get a feel for the emotional impact of the word. Does the word require an adjective or adverb to make it work better? Why? Are you excited about your word? Did you find yourself going back and rewriting your benefit statement so you could have different words to choose from? Why did that happen? Did the word you choose surprise you? Is the word also in your purpose?

Once you have determined your word and you will be true to your word, you can move on to the next question, ‘Why should I believe you?’.


What can you truly promise?


What can you truly promise?


You have your purpose. You know your competitive and collaborative climates. You know your primary audience and key constituency.  Now, what can you promise them that no one else can, and is your promise of real benefit to them?

The answer to this question forces you to truly move from cause to effect. Your business purpose can be something quite meaningful to your organization, but there are occasions where purpose is meant for internal use and does not speak directly to your key audiences. This is where you take the step from purpose to promise. You must be able to truthfully present your primary benefit into a principal idea that will then underline all communications. This is your marketing value proposition. This is your benefit statement. This is the part of your story that serves the interests of your key audiences. It’s the answer to “what’s in it for me?”

For example, a research group’s purpose or reason for existence could be to “ensure our discoveries improve the human condition.” But what about its audience or its primary customer? The primary audience of this organization are CEO’s of technology companies. What direct benefit can they get from this organization improving the human condition? The answer is very specific to the needs of their primary audience. They determined their promise is: “We have over 1,500 fresh technologies that can improve your bottom line.”

Another example is a financial institution that exists to “personally help”.  But what’s the benefit of this purpose to their primary audience, depositors? The promise of this this financial group is that they “will personally help you achieve financial health and freedom.”

Sometimes your purpose is embedded or integrated into your benefit statement. Sometimes it isn’t. An effective promise or benefit statement needs to be truthful and authentic. What makes your promise different from your purpose is that your benefit statement is unique to you. It is something you can own. It is something only you can legitimately promise to your market. For example, your purpose can be to “alleviate poverty.” Chances are there will be other businesses or organizations that have this as their purpose. But chances are they are in different industries or different markets. And, if they are in a similar arenas as you, you most likely are helping to alleviate poverty in a way they aren’t. The answer to this question should appeal to either the self-interest of your audience or their market interest. It’s what you do, what you provide, what you offer that is of direct benefit to them. The powerful thing about having a promise made to ensure achievement of a noble purpose is that the self-interest of your audiences actually transforms into a benefit for the greater good.

Let’s take a minute and discuss the difference between features and benefits. Benefits are the good things that happen to your customers or primary audience when they use or are involved in your business, product, or its services. Although we are focusing on your benefit statement, it is important for you to know how best to express the features of your product or service. Clarity here is just as important as in any other aspect of communications. You may find that your features are part of the support points you’ll be collecting when you begin to answer the question ‘How can you prove it to me?. A features list for your product, service, and business is best communicated where time and space allow you to go into more detail and description. Features of a shoe may include what the sole is made of, how pointed the toe is, the arch architecture, color choices, comfort, waterproof, and whether it comes with a guarantee.

Your promise is shaped by the benefits of using your product or service. The most effective marketing focuses on a single most important benefit. Your benefit emerges from the experience of using your product or service. When you consider benefits, consider the question, “What does my primary audience receive from experiencing this feature?”

To go back to the shoe example, what is the benefit of your shoe having a slip-proof sole? What are the benefits of its arch architecture replicating the arches of Olympic runners? What are the benefits of the shoe being available in purple?

Classic benefit statements usually talk about how convenient you make things, or how you save time and money, or how your experience translates to dependability. Take a look at car marketing. Car brochures and online descriptions may list features, but their core impression with their audience is usually based on benefit. Most car buyers are not determining what to purchase based on the steering radius or the tire size or the number of cup holders. They buy the car because of how it will impact their life in general. How will they feel in the car? How will others feel in their car? Will their children be happy in the car? This is an emotional appeal. It touches what people think of themselves and makes the car part of that definition or perception. Now, imagine if you take this classic Madison Avenue brandthink and integrate the element of purpose into it. Suddenly emotions become real and perception is stripped of the superficial.

Now, look at your features. Pick the most significant feature in terms of providing audience benefit. Will that feature save time and money? Will it cure a disease? Will it make them more comfortable? Will it improve their relationships with others? With themselves? Will it help them achieve things they have always dreamed of achieving or doing? Will it make their world a better place?

You are not writing a tag line or headline here. You are crafting the most crystal clear and focused value proposition possible. This statement will be the kernel or nugget from which taglines, headlines, ads, posts and other communication tools emerge. There is no pressure to create a statement that is poetic or clever or entertaining or shocking. The key is to use laser-like precision in explaining what you have to offer your audience that makes them want to learn more and/or make contact with you.

You crafting one sentence captures and communicates the key value that you bring to the marketplace. That value is always being framed around the hopes and aspirations of your key audience. But here is where you realize the real power of communicating from a place of purpose. It compels you to elevate your value and benefit to a place that fulfills meaningful, sustainable needs and aspirations. Once you have discovered and validated your noble purpose, it will be virtually impossible for you to go the route of dumbing-down, spinning, hyping, or manipulating the marketplace. You will naturally appeal to the higher instincts, intentions, and dreams of your audiences. This is also where you realize that this approach to business and communications is the courageous breath of fresh air you have been longing for.

Always keep in mind that your benefit statement is a means to an end. It is your means of attracting and keeping customers or supporters. It’s this relationship between you and your customer that determines how effective you will be in fulfilling your purpose. It’s the purpose of your business that drives your need to connect to the marketplace. It’s the purpose of your organization that transforms typical “brand promises” into benefits that truly make things better. Just as your purpose creates deep meaning and passion for you and your business, your benefit statement will have the meaning necessary to create passionate loyalty and buy-in from your customers and key constituencies. Your benefit statement should have great redeeming value as opposed to creating redeeming value via coupons and rebates.

Now, craft your promise statement

Consider what it is that you do that makes someone want to do business with you. What do you do that causes them to stop, consider, buy, invest, contribute, support, partner, or learn more about you? What is the value proposition you have for your audience? What do you have to offer them that will make things better for them, or, help them meet an important need? What makes this benefit unique to your business? What makes this benefit truly compelling? Craft a short and sweet statement that captures this benefit. Is it true? Is it meaningful? Does it fortify the fulfillment of your cause? Make sure every word in this statement counts.  When you’ve done this, you’re ready to move on to answering the question: How do you be true to your word?



What's stopping you from telling the truth?


What's stopping you from telling the truth?


You’ve captured your true purpose and realized the need to tell your truth and who to tell it to. Now, what’s stopping you from going forth and telling it?

When looking at the lay of the branding land, strategists have primarily focused on asking ‘what is the competitive climate?’. What are the emotional, psychological, political, and economic obstacles blocking your path? Competitive analysis is often a good chunk of such marketing communication plan or branding platform, sometimes taking up as much as 50 percent of a three-inch, three-ring binder or a 13MB file. For the purposes of creating a purpose-led communications strategy, you should answer this question with total objectivity and without blinders. Identify other businesses or organizations that are, or could be, competitors. Call out any other issues that may be standing in the way of you achieving your purpose.

These issues may be psychological obstacles. They can be emotional roadblocks. They can be driven by economics. They can be obstacles within your organization, such as cultural, resources or operational issues. These obstacles can be readily evident, big, and sometimes monstrous. They can also be hidden landmines or stealth-like forces waiting beneath the radar. Whatever they are, make sure you take note of them. The answer to this question is a true reality check. If there is one guiding principle in purpose-led communications, it is the realization that the best way to deal with your competitive climate is to know who and what it is and to deal and speak to it with absolute transparency and integrity. This is an area of communications planning where fear loves to feed. You need to look that fear right in the eye and master it.

Take the classic Economics 101 meaning of competition and wrestle with it in terms of how your business and organization can achieve its cause. Most see competition as a pillar of capitalism that fuels innovation, efficiency, and low prices. Microeconomic theory believes that pure competition produces efficient means and tools for allocating resources. It makes businesses create new products and services that provide the customer with more and more options and variations. More selection usually, but not necessarily, leads to lower prices, as opposed to pricing situations under a monopoly or oligopoly. This classic viewpoint can clash with a purpose-led organization. It can also be difficult to appreciate by the business committed to sustainability.

Ask yourself and your team what you are competing for? Is it profit? Market share? Are you hoping to defeat or conquer something? Is it something bad? Is it good? What is the size of the competition? Are you a small entity competing locally or a corporate giant dueling for global markets, talent, and resources? What are the consequences of your competition? Is it friendly? Is it for fun? Is it for pride? Or is it a bitter rivalry? Is it like a war? How does all this bump up against the idea of your business as a cause or a driven by noble purpose? What damage needs to occur for you to achieve your purpose? Who will suffer? Who will gain?

Interspecies competition can be seen as the shaping influence around adaptation and evolution. Social Darwinists believe competition can help determine who and what is best politically, economically, and environmentally. Do you feel your purpose separates the strong from the weak? Are the obstacles standing in your way superior or inferior to your purpose? How do you feel when your purpose is placed in a hierarchy of importance?

Now, let’s shift our perspective. It doesn’t take a Nobel Prize in economics to know that competition can have a less than positive impact upon both humans and the planet. Negative effects range from damaging other living things to the depletion of valuable resources and energy supplies. Competition often demands enormous financial reserves. Competition can soften ethical principles to gain the upper hand. Competition can hurt the team because it pushes itself beyond its limits to win and becomes unprepared for losing. Ironically, going full throttle for competitive advantage can actually hurt company profitability. There hasn’t been much visible, mainstream philosophical energy or discourse around the core nature of competition and its impact on ethics. Throughout history, philosophers’ observations on competition isn’t always taken seriously since it doesn’t have the gravitas of the MBA in finance. Competition was always regarded as being a natural part of our society. This has changed recently. Some now see competition as being the enemy of cooperation and meaningful innovation, while others view competition and cooperation as necessary roommates.

Is competition at its core beneficent? Who benefits from competition? Who suffers? Is the suffering justified? Are the benefits hoarded or shared, revealed or hidden? Can the benefits be financial and mindful? Does competition call for only one winner? What happens to the losers? What happens to the winner? Why is it set up as a game to begin with? What comes to mind when you hear the term “cola wars”? What comes to mind when you hear “war games” in a marketing context? Think about the meaning of these terms in as they relate to your business or organization: contestant, champion, comer, finalist, foe, front-runner, favorite, world-beater, king, leader, and number one.

Let’s move from the competitive to the collaborative climate.

Take an inventory of your collaborative climate. What joint operations, actions, or cooperation are essential for your success? What are the forces working with you? What can you create rather than destroy or conquer?

Fully integrated individuals realize that they must work with both their personal strengths and weaknesses. Functional families realize they must work together for the betterment of each family member, which results in the overall health of the family. Truly healthy corporate cultures rely on true collaboration among departments and teams and offices rather than a divisive “winners and losers” approach to the bottom line. A collaboration-based profit and loss statement is more sustainable than one built by a winner-take-all, master-of-the-universe mentality. Think about this when you construct your collaborative climate. Compare your competitive and collaborative analysis. See which one feels most aligned with your purpose. Think about what the difference is between being better than others and doing better for others.

Take a 360-degree view of your organization. Look at it from both the inside out and outside in. See yourself as others see you. Create an inventory of your weaknesses and the strengths. Think in terms of both physical competition and philosophical roadblocks. When you feel you have created a comprehensive competitive overview, select the number one obstacle standing in the way of your success.

Conduct a review of your collaborative climate. Again, look at what’s being done internally or what could be done in terms of collaboration. How do others regard you from the perspective of collaboration? What is your most effective means of working with others? What is stopping you from collaborating with others? What would happen if you pursued a collaborative relationship with your main competitor? Or, with any competitor? What would happen if you worked with the attitudinal, economical, and environmental obstacles standing in your way rather than always going against them?

After contrasting your competitive and collaborative climates, which climate most supports, nurtures and fortifies your purpose?  Both your intellect and instinct speak volumes when you make this observation.  If you are an organization genuinely committed to a noble purpose, the answer to this question is evident and energizing. If it isn’t, then you need to keep working on this answer before you move to the next question ‘What can only you truly promise your primary audience that is of real benefit to them?’



Whom Do I Tell The Truth To?


Whom Do I Tell The Truth To?


You’ve captured your true purpose and realized the need to tell your truth. Now, whom do you tell it to?

When asked, “Tell us who your audience is?” mostbusinesses claim they have many potential audiences. In fact, most of time they have lists and categories of audiences. Certainly, from a marketing standpoint, it is important to be concerned about all the touch points you have in telling your story, and there should be some kind of consistency when speaking to all those diverse segments. Yet, there are certain, primary constituencies on which a business or organization needs to focus in order to achieve its purpose and be successful.

Not every business or nonprofit has either the financial or operational resources to create full-throttle, market-segmented messages. Merging the need for practicality with the drive toward purpose, the need to identify a core, primary audience emerges. This is the audience critical not only to maintaining your business position, but more important, for thriving into the future. Working in a world with very tight budgets, it’s no surprise the need to be clear, efficient, and compelling with messaging is paramount. With that, a business or organization must prioritize and commit. This is not to say we won’t honor, respect, and try to reach all the other relevant audiences. But it acknowledges, affirms, and acts upon knowing first and foremost with whom the purpose-led business needs to connect for it to endure and advance.

Typically, businesses and organizations have research on hand about audience and markets and it’s vital to look into that data through the purpose lens. This is where a kind of courage arises that isn’t present in mainstream branding. Mainstream branding looks at external audiences and then shapes, manipulates, spins, and even contorts value propositions and promises to fit what the external world wants and needs (or we should say what marketers and brand strategists think they need and want.  If Henry Ford answered what the market thought they wanted, he would have created a faster horse.).

Purpose-led communication respects the needs and wants of the external markets and customers, but that respect is always shaped by the internal and then externally championed purpose. This approach to audience determination and customer engagement is based on the long view. It sits at the altar of authenticity and transparency and is a true and often bold promise to the market. This promise is strong, confident and able to take on all kinds of whims, trends, and ups and downs. It’s a promise that comes from both the heart and mind of a business and, therefore speaks to the hearts and minds of its stakeholders in ways that transcend branding as usual.

To hammer home this point again, once you are firmly planted in your purpose, it is crucial to understand your customer’s needs and preferences in the context of that purpose. Your primary audience is a distinct group of customers (or stakeholders), and clearly defining this group will help you promote the story of your organization that is real and relevant to that group. But always remember, you aren’t censoring or editing your story so it seems palatable to this group. You are championing your story with conviction and a confident, voice. 

To begin to understand your primary, core constituency, break out and segment your existing customers and audiences. Who is your most profitable customer or audience? Who is the audience that composes the lion’s share of your business? Your attention? Your pain? Is there a common thread among your audiences?

You can further analyze and divide your audiences according to demographics and psychographics. Demographics organize people according to things like age, location, occupation, sex and income. Psychographics portray audiences according to their attitudes, values and fears, like people who are liberal or conservative, or people who like living on the edge and making risky investments or people who like contemplative drama and reflection or people who like to take immediate action and like super-hero movies. Advanced psychographics can often help to reveal intellectual and emotional qualities in ways that create messaging threads.

Understanding your audiences will assist you in combining key attributes and factors that end up defining your audiences with more specific profiles such as women, aged 25-34, one child, married, income of $55,000, lives in suburb, loves crafts and Italian food; or male, age 55-64, married, grandparent, income of $85,000, avid golfer and vacations in Costa Rica every year. Now, blend into these quasi-stereotype profiles elements such as beliefs, values, dreams, and principles and your closer to understanding audiences who will be attracted to and support your purpose and promise. Once you define your audiences at this level, you can begin to discover how your business or organization and its products relate to their values and beliefs. There can be a certain kind of intimacy that takes place here that transparent, purpose-led messaging can invite.

Talk with people who are actually in your primary audience. Speak with them about what they love and hate. Act like a researcher, or hire a researcher on this wavelength. Create an actual survey underlined with purpose. Share the questions with your existing customers as well potential customers.

Ninety percent of our knowledge comes from listening, not talking. So imagine how much you can learn by paying attention to the conversations and messages of your primary audience. Pay attention to what they say, and don’t say, what they feel and repress, and you’ll begin to paint a pretty accurate picture of what makes them tick and what they yearn for. Hang out where your primary audience hangs out, from the grocery store to the community center, soccer field or Facebook.  Where they spend their time will provides another snapshot of what’s important to them and who is important in their life.

As you unearth more about your primary audiences, make sure you document it and make the documentation as detailed and systematic as possible. A rigorous kind of information gathering methodology will help you in all your communication efforts and planning. Thoughtful, organized can help you find ways to make your most profitable customers refer you to more customers, or increase the involvement and commitment of your primary audience with your product and service. You should be able to see how this analysis not only reflects on your communication goals, but also your business or organizational objectives.

By using the information and understanding you’ve collected about your primary audience, you can begin to determine how to best achieve your purpose by creating a communications strategy to accommodate various audiences even as you zero in on your core.

The more thorough your knowledge of your primary audience, the more effective you will be in connecting with them and having them tap into the passion and authenticity of your value proposition and promise. As you track the effectiveness of your brand efforts, set up a means to continually update, enhance and refresh your audience data. Preferences and business climates are constantly moving and shifting, and the most successfulleaders are those who adapt constant changes, yet always do it with a clear focus on purpose.

Along with the classic audience analysis, the process of a organization determining its primary audience requires doses of both courage and reality. It requires the business to be comfortable in its own skin and not controlled by the need to be all things to all people. It also demands that the business come to grips with the fact that there is a group (or groups) out there that will profoundly influence the well being of the business. This isn’t a confirmation of the rule that “the customer is always right” or the “customer always comes first.” It is a confirmation that your ‘noble purpose is what’s right’ and that, blasphemous as it may sound, organizations may find that their employees or the community may come first.  This isn’t to disparage the customer, but it is alert you to the fact when you travel the purpose path, main street branding approaches often don’t hold enough water.  You shouldn’t contort your purpose to appeal to the customer. In fact having a strong, confident purpose should prove to be an attractive quality not to only your customers, but also your culture, community and other key constituencies.

After all this thinking and reflecting, ask yourself: If you have just enough budget to create and and place a online banner message, and the fate of your organization achieving its noble purpose depends on this message (not to sound too extreme!), who would you aim the message at and where would you place it? If you can answer this with confidence and clarity, you know your core market.  Your now ready to move on to the question 'What could be stopping you from telling your truth?'.







“Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth. I sat at a table where there were rich food and wine in abundance, and obsequious attendance, but sincerity and truth were not; and I went away hungry from the inhospitable board.     -Henry David Thoreau

When developing a purpose-led communication strategy, asking the question “Why are we here” is the place to start. Answering this will reveal your purpose.  After you’ve answered it, the second question to ask is ‘Why tell our truth’

Answering this question will accomplish a number of things for your business or organization. First, it will give more concrete form to the passion of your purpose. It would be tragic to unearth and validate your purpose then let all the power of your purpose go into hibernation.

Some business and organizations call themselves quiet. That’s fine. But just because you are the quiet type doesn’t mean you never express yourself. You express yourself in a quiet way, but you don’t become a marketing wallflower and disappear into the branding woodwork. Being totally silent won’t do you much good in the long run. Eventually the fear that pushes you to censor your story will silence your business. If you accept the proposition that you are a cause to be believed in, there is no room for fear. Doing business driven by noble purpose requires courage.

Telling your story isn’t about bragging or being a self-absorbed bore. It’s a matter of letting the world know who you are, what you do, and why you do it. Without this information, the world will have a difficult time noticing you and trusting you. By definition, telling your story from a place of noble purpose is telling the truth. Telling the truth is not tooting your horn. If you don’t tell your story, who will? You will be amazed at how hungry customers, employees, and community are for businesses to honestly connect with them. Such honesty inspires and creates a kinship that will stand all kinds of tests as your amazement leads to rewards.

This question brings to the surface all the hesitations and resentment an organization may have toward branding, marketing and communications. This part of the conversation can get heated and testy. That’s okay. What you are doing is redefining branding and communications. It’s no longer just making ads and selling something. It’s no longer putting messages into stylish packages void of real meaning. You now realize communications is the primary tool for building trust both inside and outside your business. You realize communications can be a powerful force and it’s part of your role in both society and business to make sure you make it a force for good. That good can be educating and enlightening your markets, improving the station in life of your consumers, or making communities better places to live, work, and play. So be bold. Leave no stone unturned. Talk about what hasn’t been talked about before. Challenge all the resistance to telling your story. Reflect on that resistance and turn it into strength.

Revelations that emerge from answering this question

The most fascinating part of this question is the process of answering it. The process itself is the act of communicating. How it’s acted upon will speak volumes about your organization. It’s this question and how you answer it that will be the lubricant for propelling your purpose. If the communications emerging from answering this question are forthright, bold, and transparent, your communications should be ‘truly effective.’

Peter Drucker noted that business has only two functions, marketing and innovation. Answering this question will help your business fulfill its marketing function, and fulfill it in a way that transcends branding as usual. If you agree with the definition of marketing as acquiring and keeping customers and that the acquisition requires strategies and tactics that will identify, manifest, and maintain healthy relationships that benefit and create value for you and your customers, then there is no option but to market your business or organization. What makes purpose-led branding so effective is that those relationships, whether they are internal with your team or external with your audiences, are born and reared with nothing but the truth. John D. Rockefeller ascribed to this principle: “Next to doing the right thing, the most important thing is to let people know you are doing the right thing.” Well, your noble purpose is your right thing. Now, it’s a question of how you let the world know about it.

Answers to this question can go from the blunt and direct to the more cerebral and philosophical. Have your leadership team talk about why they either jump at the chance to talk about the company to others, or why they crawl under a rock when the opportunity to speak about the business appears. Ask what would happen if there was no word of mouth around your business? What would happen if you didn’t have a web site, blog or trade show exhibit? What would happen if you didn’t have a identity for your business? Little, if anything.

Whenever you bump into resistance to marketing or communications, try to find out where the resistance gets its energy. Listen to all the branding and marketing war stories. Discuss crisis management related to branding issues. Conduct an audit of all your communication efforts to see what worked, what didn’t, and why. Talk about missed market opportunities because of the wallflower factor or mistrust of marketing. Get it all out. Then, begin to construct a working list of reasons why you need to tell your story.

You may not have to go into this kind of depth on this question if your organization is branding and marketing friendly. If it is marketing friendly, make sure that friendliness comes from a place of truth and authenticity and not just golf trips to Maui as sales incentives, or an ad campaign that attacks competitors without saying a thing about your own company, or story telling that smacks more of fiction than nonfiction. Once you have consensus on the purpose and the reasons why communicating is important to your success, move on to the next question: 'Who do you tell the truth to?'.



Climate Changers™


Climate Changers™

The purpose of Climate Changers is to create and share an international community of individuals taking on the challenge and opportunity of climate change. The actions of these individuals will inform, inspire and ignite people everywhere to act in ways that not only reverse and reduce the negative impact of climate change, but to actually begin to create a sustainable and just tomorrow for all.

Climate Changers provides an uplifting global/local community that informs, inspires and provides actions individuals are taking to not only reduce and reverse the negative impacts of climate change, but to actually begin to create a sustainable and just tomorrow for all.

Climate Changers shows how people around the world are making a difference through government, business, organizations communities and as global and local citizens.  We provide inclusive, innovative and compassionate examples and solutions you can use or adopt.  From changing government policy, the way we shop and how we get our energy to changing business philosophy and practice, our travel habits and needs and the conversation about climate change to include many more voices.  Climate Changes opens the door to everyone becoming a climate change agent.

Framed around human dignity, Climate Changers empowers people to step forward.  While addressing climate change can be met with apathy, fear, hopelessness, anger and denial, Climate Changers builds on the hope and optimism of collective and individual action and gives a human face to climate.  Climate Changers provides examples of how one person can make a difference - be it small or major - and others can see themselves in that person and what they are doing.  It is critical for the continued advance of the climate change movement that the diverse ways of acting can be be shared with all.   Climate Changers is driven by the belief that every 'we starts with i'. 

Climate Changers has been selected as a project of the Center for Transformative Action (CTA). CTA serves as our non-profit fiscal sponsor which allows us to seek donations and apply for grants. 

We are just beginning the Climate Changers journey and need all the help and support we can get.  We have created a 'pre-site' that explains what the project is and how it will unfold.  You can visit the pre-site athttp://www.iclimatechange.org/#green-1

We invite you donate to Climate Changers.   By support our work now, you will help ensure a better future for everyone.  Your donation is tax deductible.






In Memorium: Richard Steckel

My dear friend and mentor, Richard Steckel, passed away last Friday morning, June 19, 2016.  To realize the impact Richard had and will continue to have on the world, please visit this tribute created by his loving family.



Happy Kepler 438b Day!


Happy Kepler 438b Day!

Do you think inhabitants of other planets pick one day a year to celebrate and revere the place they call home?

Kepler 438b is the most earth-like planet discovered to date.  It could be a home for alien life.  Kepler 438b is a bit bigger than Earth and orbits a dwarf star that provides 40% more heat than what our sun provides. Scientists believe Kepler 438b’s size makes it likely to be a rocky place.  The planet’s nearness to its star helps create an environment where the temperature could create is ideal setting for water.  A rocky surface and water flow are two key ingredients for making a place where life can thrive.

Scientists also believe that there are seven more planets that have similar life-welcoming characteristics like Kepler 438b.

Let’s say we pay a visit to Kepler 438b (hey, it’s only 420 light years away).  Do you think you'll see a Kepler 438b Day on their calendar similar to our Earth Day?  On that day, will they be celebrating the wonder and magnificence of Kepler 438b or will the day cause them to come to grips with the fact that they need to do whatever it takes to improve the health of an ill planet?  Will they realize Kepler 438b is experiencing climate change?  Did they just experience the hottest year on record? If they have seas, are the levels rising?  Are their oceans warming?  Is the acidity of ocean water increasing at an alarming rate?  Are the ice sheets shrinking and sea ice declining?  Are glaciers retreating everywhere on the planet?  Are extreme events increasing, events like record high temperatures and intense rainfalls?  Has the population of Kepler 438b increased 185% during the last 40 years while terrestrial wildlife populations have declined 40% and freshwater wildlife has declined almost 80%? Have the CO2 concentrations reached record highs?  Are inhabitants dumping 19.4 billion pounds of plastic in their oceans every year?  Are an estimated 18 million acres of forests lost each year? Are they facing a 40% shortfall in water supply in the next 15 years? Are the climate change-related events going to increase hunger by 20% in the next 35 years?  And is massive income inequality contributing to climate change?

Fortunately, right now, we don’t have a shuttle that will take us Kepler 438b.  Because if we did, we would find ourselves on a planet in desperate need of behavior change by the inhabitants. But, we don’t need to go to Kepler 438b to realize an urgent need to change. You’ve probably already realized the projected situation described on Kepler 438b is the actual situation here on planet Earth.  We thought this would be a good exercise in a change in perspective igniting a change in behavior, beliefs, attitudes and actions.

Chances are, we aren’t the only planet facing the issues we face here on Earth Day.  Perhaps extending our vision beyond us and, yes, beyond our solar system, will trigger the realization that we (you and me) are not the center of the universe.  This realization is one of the first steps we need to take to ensure a healthy Earth every day.    

Special thanks to The Guardian, Matt Petronzio/Mashable and Awashpost for data and graphic support.


Can communications change the world for good?


Can communications change the world for good?

The belief system at Good for Business is that communication can be a force and source for good. It's a belief that began to take deep root when we developed an AIDS Awareness campaign in 1990. Through that experience, we realized the impact messaging can have on matters of life and death. The campaign elements included television, radio, billboards, transit, posters and press kits (this all happened pre-Internet, Twitter, Facebook and blogs like you are reading now). The heroes of the campaign included an attorney who stepped forward to tell his story to the community via two television PSA's (he soon thereafter died from the disease), prostitutes, drug addicts and teenagers urging other teenagers to use condoms (this campaign was the first in the U.S. to show a condom without a wrapper). Although the campaign was created for the community we lived and worked in, it eventually was distributed nationally. The overall impact raised the level of awareness of AIDS in ways that showed how it touches all walks of life. The direct impact to us at Good for Business was to begin to fully realize the power of a message, especially when that power is driven by a noble purpose. 

Now, jump forward three decades. The landscape of communications has been altered almost beyond recognition thanks in large part to the internet and social media. What hasn't changed is the wide spectrum of messaging intent. On one end you will still find a majority of messages pushing unconscious materialism, unwarranted desires and needs and resulting in sense of ennui and profit-led reasons for being. On the other end you will find those messages that do whatever they can to speak to 'the better angels of our nature' by championing compassion, service, understanding and love. These messages aren't selling a thing. Instead, these messages make real connections to deeper meaning and purpose. And, when they are successful, the chance for the needles of social and environmental justice to move improves.

In between these two ends of the communication spectrum are businesses, organizations, movements and individuals who struggle with the tension to make a profit, get a grant or expand market share on one hand and a gnawing need to make a positive difference on the other. We believe that in the middle of the spectrum is the untapped ability for communication to be a source and force for good. It is our belief that the surest route to tapping this potential is through purpose. We believe our survival as a species depends upon the vast majority of human beings waking up in the morning with a sense of noble purpose. People will go to work realizing profit isn't the end game, but instead is a fuel for achieving something good and greater than themselves. People will go to school seeking out the kind of knowledge and understanding that clarifies their sense of purpose and bolsters their fortitude to move fearlessly forward. People will seek out relationships, collaborations, and partnerships based on how human connection is a key ingredient for making positive change and achieving purpose.

We at Good for Business are extremely excited about the prospects of purpose. We are dedicated to doing whatever we can in our world of communications to express the great power of purpose to cultures, customers, constituencies and communities. We know full well we won't be working with one end of the communication spectrum. We are thrilled whenever we can apply our talent and imagination at the other end of the spectrum. But, we are actually looking forward to the challenge and opportunity to work with the spectrum's center and to help make it strong so the center can, in fact, hold. Call us idealistic, but we envision the center alive and well because the tension between profit and purpose vanishes. We see the center flourishing while addressing climate change, economic justice, health care and disease, human rights and environmental justice. We see the center creating products from recycled, organic, nontoxic materials and these products answer a need, not a craving. We see the center empowering their employees with equal and just pay, concern and care. We see the center helping to make communities healthy and happy for everyone at this point in time and for generations to come.  

Our role in all this? Our purpose of helping to create communications that are a source and force for good will intersect the center of the communication landscape. This purpose that emerged in a soul-stirring and eye-opening moment 1990 continues to guide our work today, 25 years later. It will serve as our true north moving forward. Whether we are helping create a purpose-led message platform through Message And Purpose (MAP) or helping to create communications with the purpose of informing, inspiring and igniting action to address the issues and opportunities of our time through Factivist™, we'll do what we can to make a difference.

To commemorate the passion and revelation of 1990, you'll also note we updated the Good for Business web site. It reflects our ongoing evolution.

We look forward to your comments, ideas, and insight regarding the subject of 'Can communications be a force for good?'.