In their shoes

Hopefully this is a secret skill that Communications people possess. Undertaking communications for someone else means you have to interpret what people want and process this and advise as to what they need. Sometimes these are two different things.

It helps if the business or person you are working for has a clear view of what they want to communicate and who to, as well as some understanding of what success looks like to them. But sometimes that may not be achievable or they may not even know.

If there is any great secret of success in life, it lies in the ability to put yourself in the other person’s place and to see things from his point of view - as well as your own.
— Henry Ford

A colleague is working with a food & drink business start-up. Hugely exciting for her as it is a rare blank canvas but also hugely challenging as there are few reference points. There is no position statement. There isn't a style guide. The owner of the business has a fabulous track record but that is almost irrelevant as they are starting from the ground up.

Now this is an opportunity but it can also hinder as there are so many situations where "you don't know what you don't know until you find you don't know it". They are trying to get editorial coverage and generate interest, and lets face it sales, but it's a challenge to do this before the marketing plan is sorted. However the owner has more pressing issues on a daily basis - like the shape of the bottle, where the raw ingredients are being sourced from, warehousing... I could go on.

Thankfully as he has been here before he has engaged a comms person part-time from the beginning but they aren't just putting the pieces of the jigsaw together they are making the jigsaw too.

All too often marketing and communications is seen as a bolt on or interpreted as advertising spend. Sometimes it is seen as just having a Twitter & Facebook page but it is vital a new business knows who they are, who their target audience is, what words describe them. Which is where that skill comes in. A great communications specialist will have the ability to tease out all those things.

Let me put it another way. Would you start a mail-order business without sorting out a good deal on postage and packaging? Would you open a cafe without a decent coffee machine. Of course not. If you start a new business it is vital that you tell people and tell them why they need to choose you.

All too often new businesses come into being as an extension of a hobby or love of the business owner, not a massive gap in the market. As a result the owners base their communications such as brand and target audience on their likes and dislikes. If your product or service is aimed squarely at that audience then congratulations, lucky you. But quite often it isn't. And this is where lots of early start-up's can fail. Get out there with your idea. Go to a farmers market or stand on the street but ask people and not just people you know as they will probably just tell you what you want to hear. I bet that coffee maker you chose was well researched.

So that clever comms specialist will be able to support you to identify your place, your price, your promotion, your people. Oh look we're heading off to the 7 P's of marketing. But that's a whole other post...