Communication: Making Messages (Really) Matter
You could say that I have been preparing for the release of my book, "The Daily Undoing: Being Better at Being Human" for the past 15 months. The notion of writing a book to play off the podcast of the same name, that I had been running since mid 2018, was something that I felt compelled to do once I decided to focus the podcast on "competencies" essential to work and life. That compulsion came into focus in late 2019.
From January 1, 2020 up until approximately mid October, I plodded along, punching out my 60-second mini-casts every day, celebrating and suggesting activities to stimulate the eight pillar competencies, which form the backbone of my book as well. Then, in those mid stages of autumn it dawned on me that I hadn't really given much thought as to how the book would be assembled. I had uploaded a mental file to my brain that was really more like a post-it note than a comprehensive plan. The post-it note said, "copy and paste The Daily Undoing scripts into pages of a book, then hit publish". I had honestly, and quite arrogantly assumed, that my stuff was that good, that transferable, that resonant. Ok, it was also naivety and ignorance advancing this early delusion, but the fact is I was woefully under-prepared, and as I would learn, under-educated to publish a book by the end of the year - which was my original plan.
The past six months, since the realization that this book thing was going to be a little more work than I had imagined, has been more like a high speed obstacle course than a sprint. Now, with the final book files sitting in some computer server, in a cue to be published and made available commercially, you would think I would feel a sense of relief and an urge to relax and let the market react accordingly to my offering. However, as a marketer I realize that is a recipe bound to bring about a chorus of crickets. The fact is, no matter how exhausting this manic race has been to bring my book to the market, the real work of bringing the market to my book has only just begun, and it is about to get very, very challenging both physically and mentally.
Intellectually I knew this to be the truth, but I begun receiving signals of it as soon as I started dripping out a semi-planned social media teaser strategy in late December. Words of encouragement and expressions of interest were evident, but the wistful daydream of rampant and rabid public anticipation, only an author is capable of conjuring up in their head, was quickly extinguished. This launch thing was going to take some work, and the outcome of any amount of work was highly unpredictable.
I can take some comfort in knowing that, as a marketing teacher, consultant and author, I think I have some perspective on the scope of work that lies ahead, along with the strategies and tactics that I need to employ. However, this marketing "expertise" I supposedly possess makes me feel a heightened sense of pressure to somehow be able to "bend" the market toward my product. To put it another way, I feel a greater pressure to make the book successful, than I did to make the book.
So I am going to begin instructing myself the very same things I have instructed my students over the past 20 years. First, there is nothing more honest and true than a market's response. So at some point I will have to resign myself to accept how the market has evaluated my offering - my book. Second, however, the market must be made aware of an offering in order to make a ruling upon it. Thus, despite the esteem-building words of my wife, friends and certain strangers who have said nice things about me and my content on social media, they alone cannot be held accountable to spread the word of my product. I must do that myself, again using the marketing communications strategies I teach about: advertising, public relations, direct response and sales promotions Third, and this is the crux of the matter, that communications strategy has to be more than shameless attention grabbing, and it must do more than communicate value to be received if my product is purchased. The communication itself must hold value. I basically have to provide value within the context of my message in order to earn social proof.
To be fair, this is exactly what I did for the 366 days of 2020. Each day in my podcast I presented a case study on one of the eight pillar competencies, explaining why it mattered, and providing a takeaway action for listeners to practice. Each day, a mini lesson. Having used competency based learning as my primary teaching style throughout my career, I felt comfortable packaging it up for distribution in this manner. More importantly, I authentically believed my messages contained value, and over time I began to receive feedback from listeners to corroborate this connection was occurring. The content in the podcast provided value, and in turn people listened. By this logic I am intent to replicating this model in order to open that "know-like-trust" gateway to those unfamiliar with me or my work.
In his book, "Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion", Dr. Robert Cialdini outlines six persuasive triggers. The first one is reciprocity. I actually reference this law in my book (I cite a lot of very smart people in my book!) I love the reciprocity law because it is so authentic, but also relatively easy to execute. My first point here though is key. Authenticity. To give something away for the soul and expressed purpose of getting something in return, is not what Cialdini was preaching in his book, although that tactic is widely used to varying degrees of success. I believe the law of reciprocity only exists as a law if the giving is honest, authentic and NOT tied to a condition. However, the giver is also aware that his/her gift is valuable enough that the receiver would, in fact, feel compelled to reciprocate.
Where am I going with this, what does it have to do with communications, or the marketing of my book? Before I answer those questions, let me cite another giant in matters of personal development - Dr. Stephen Covey. You will find several nods in his direction in my book also, but let me share one of his seven habits of successful people right here, as I feel it pairs well with Cialdini's law of reciprocity. Covey's second habit is: "Begin with the end in mind". Have a vision for what you really want to be the outcome of an endeavor, a project, a problem to be solved. Starting with the end in mind forces everything you do toward that end to be aligned with it. Thus when Cialdini's "reciprocity" law and Covey's "end-in-mind" habit fused together - assuming I really want to be real with myself here - I would say something like the following:
My "Begin with the end in mind":
What I really want the effort and energy I put into my book to result in, is a positive and lasting personal impact not only for those who read and use the material, but also those with whom my readers interact in their lives.
Embed useful and practical information in all of my messaging, with authenticity and integrity so that even small bite sized chunks of my book have the ability to impact.
It occurred to me that the word impact was central to both of my statements. Which leads me to the point of the whole thing.
Communication is one of the pillar competencies I describe and activate roughly 45 times throughout my book. In "Episode 69" of the book, which is formatted by sequential episode numbers to allow readers to listen to the podcast episode which inspired the work page, I wrote the following:
COMPETENCY: COMMUNICATION In his seminal book, “Influence,” Robert Cialdini identifies six principles of influence including “reciprocity” – a persuasion technique grounded in our compulsion to return favours. ACTION: PERSUADE If you desire an action to be taken from your communication, then emphasize the value you are providing.
As I suggested earlier in this post, I must take several pages from my own instruction manual in how to go about marketing my own product. Yes, I'd like you to buy a copy of my book. I would like hundreds of others to do so as well. But what I really want from this book is impact. I want the needle to be moved, first in the lives of those who run with it, and then amongst those they run with. If you're reading this post, my somewhat immodest hunch is that you are a fairly strong candidate to purchase my book. Somehow you have found me, and found reason to follow, consume and maybe even think about my perspective on things. But how do I get others who do not know me, to consider buying my book, without which my ability to have a positive impact is limited? I must give them value as a means of building trust. My "end-in-mind" is impact, thus I must provide promotional material that in and of itself, can have impact.
Fortunately, as described earlier, I feel pretty adept at this. I spent 10 hours a week creating audible value with my podcast for several years, and have begun to do create value with this blog as well. But I have this book to launch, which I need to look at as a business at the end of the day as well, and for it to have impact, I must me thinking "value" is the message.
Beginning last week I created some material on PDF which provides a small glimpse at the 8 Pillar Competencies, and a brief example on how to exercise each. I created a link to access to this 2-sheet PDF, and all I'm looking for in the exchange is an email address. This is neither a new or original tactic, but it is important to be understood that it is not an email list building tactic, as much as it is a relationship generating tactic. For those who want this little "cheat sheet", I hope to start a relationship based upon the subtitle of my book - all of us working together at being better at being human. I'm hoping my gesture will be seen not only as a way of generating awareness and attention around my book, but also as a valuable tool that those who download, can begin thinking about immediately. That's it. You never have to enter my website again, nor buy my book, but if the material on these two sheets has any kind of positive impact, hopefully I have earned our trust...which is the first step to earning your business.
You can access the PDF by clicking here. And just as Cialdini's law of reciprocity suggests, don't think that by you giving me something you covet - a small piece of personal information - that I won't in turn feel a sense of reciprocity toward you to...continue providing value that has impact.