"HOW TO WHY' SERIES: ONE
“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?'.