What’s the frequency, Kenneth? Tips around communication

News anchor Dan Rather’s random beating in Manhattan in October 1986 created a new phrase in our lexicon: “What’s the frequency Kenneth?” It was the question posed to him during a physical attack. Dan was the broadcasting pro at CBS. To borrow from James Bond, Rather was shaken, not stirred (and rumours abounded at the time that it may have been undertaken by a jealous husband).

It later turned out that the act was performed by a William Tager, who thought CBS were beaming signals into his head. The phrase became a response to surreal events and a standard student reply to a teacher’s question not well understood. In 1994, REM dedicated a track from their Monster album.

However complex the story, it does not have to be this way. Giddy Up is dedicated to demystifying sponsorship relations. This month we look at questions and examples around communication.

Earn the right
A technology executive once explained to me that their company was working hard to position themselves to have the conversation they needed to have with their prospective customers. Their business was in outsourced services that required high performance and a significant level of trust. He used the phrase that they needed to ‘earn the right’ to have the conversation.

Meanwhile, Elon Musk, in talking on Tesla with the Guardian in May 2017, shared that the Tesla “market cap is higher than we have any right to deserve”.

Aligning your values with the right sponsorship party is a plausible way to share what you stand for. This indirect form of communication speaks on the company’s behalf. It provides the right and the worthiness to have the conversation. It also increases the likelihood of being heard in a busy world.

To whom? 
To determine who you are appealing to, you need to determine your prime audience. Is it an internal (staff) or external (customer or stakeholder) message that you are trying to share? Regional relationships, as with Pic’s Peanut Butter who favour the local community, provide pride for staff and participation for all. It also strengthens the localisation message which is becoming more topical.

How often
This is a balance between relevance vs. spam. Your message should be designed to fit into the recipients’ schedule. It should provide useful information that they can easily understand and action.

How long
It is important to respect people’s time that they can dedicate to you. You may have earned the right to converse, but you need to be realistic. You also need to ensure that you can maintain momentum in terms of quality and timeliness. This needs careful thinking on sustainable resourcing.

One or two ways?
Is it a broadcast, or are you encouraging engagement and feedback? If the latter, are you prepared to respond in a timely fashion? This includes marketing channel selection and managing recipient expectations.

Whose voice are you selecting within your organisation to connect? What resonance do they have with your audience? What are the balance of skills and energy that you have inside your company? Are there tasks that you can outsource? What must you do yourself to be authentic?

We need to earn the right to communicate. Adequate resourcing is essential, as it is a privilege and not a right to engage and thrill. We cannot just beam the frequency into people’s heads, even if the likelihood of a visit from Mr. Tager is remote.  

A considered communications plan will provide timely and relevant information to engaged people who will be inspired to act upon it. What’s your experience? Giddy Up!

*Disclosure: The author enjoys Pics Peanut Butter on his weekend breakfast toast. Even more so when it is brought to him in bed.

InsightsNick Phillips