By Idéle Prinsloo, Agency Lead at At That Point
Audiences are becoming ever more suspicious of any communication that come their way. This can be attributed to several factors including; fake news, corruption, hidden motives or a general overdose of information.
When doing communication planning, it is therefore cardinal to gain and keep the trust of your audience, whether they be your colleagues, clients or those who influence your industry. In this day and age, the best route to take is the one of complete authenticity.
The first step is to undertake a communication audit to determine where your business currently stands in terms of its communication. What were the messages? How were they delivered? And what were the responses? Once you have a clear picture with regards to your current standing, you can move on to create your new improved communication plan.
Following your communication audit, the next step is to listen to your audience, as this will allow you to truly gain their trust and respect. Make sure you know their true opinion about everything that is relevant to your business. When you communicate from an informed and involved point of view, you are authentic and much more likely to catch the attention of your audience.
You can achieve this by tapping into your audience’s dialogues on social media, staying abreast of news and trends, as well as actually talking with colleagues, clients and influencers during lunches, meetings or discussion forums.
The importance of real and honest communication cannot be overstated, especially when taking into account the daily information overload we are exposed to, much of which is fake, inaccurate or based on hidden agendas.
The idea here is not to lay bare all the mistakes you have ever made or all the challenges you have encountered, but to be honest about the ones that are relevant to the message that you are trying to convey. Position your company as being approachable, while also being respectable.
Taking responsibility for your mistakes and being open about your challenges will go a long way in positioning you as authentic and instilling trust in your brand, as your audience will be able to associate with you more.
A further step could be taken by opening the floor for a discussion on these mistakes or challenges to hear your audience’s take on how to avoid similar situations in future. This makes them feel valued and involves them in the improvement of the business as a whole.
Speak Your Truth
It is a fine balancing act between being truthful and being so blunt that you offend others. The winning approach here is to speak ‘your’ truth when communicating with your audience. However, do not force your truth upon others, make it clear that although this is your conviction, you do not expect them to believe the same.
Rather invite them to have a discussion with you where they can share their views, during which you attentively take in and consider what they are saying. This can be achieved through physical or online forums, as well as social media platforms.
As author Mike Robbins rightly states, “Truth is not about being right, it's about expressing what we think and feel in an authentic, vulnerable, and transparent way.”
Own Your Message
Whatever your message is, make sure that you have done your homework, in order to back it up if you receive negative feedback. Own your message, take responsibility for it by making sure you communicate it clearly so that your audience fully understands it.
Another way of owning your message is by literally making it your own by including your personal experiences that are relevant. For example, if your message is about employee remuneration solutions, talk about your company’s internal remuneration struggles and eventual resolution thereof.
If you have checked all the facts and carried over the message properly, you will be able to defend it should criticism arise.
The bottom line therefor is, be authentic and real, it really is the only way to build a solid, sustainable and long-term line of communication with all audiences.