Wednesday, August 13, 2008

You Gotta Have Heart.

As Frank Lloyd Wright once said, “The truth is more important than the facts.” Your constituents believe they’ll learn the truth only from a source of information that they can trust.

An interesting Stanford-Washington Post study tested Republicans and Democrats’ reactions to a list of headlines — on a wide range of topics. Each was randomly paired with one of four logos: BBC, CNN, Fox and NPR. There was considerable polarization in their responses. Republicans prefer Fox and avoid NPR and CNN. Democrats avoid Fox, but divide their attention between CNN and NPR. What’s even more important: when the news focused on controversial issues, people were especially likely to screen out the news sources that they believed did not share their political views.

In a world in which we are constantly bombarded with print, broadcast and web content; emails; text messages; phone calls; management memos; advertising and even the rumor mill, how does a communicator break through the clutter? How do you communicate the “facts” so that they are perceived by your stakeholders as the “truth” — as something they won’t screen out … that they will perceive as both relevant and reliable?

In an op-ed in The New York Times this past May, David Brooks wrote: “Information can now travel 15,000 miles in an instant. But the most important part of information’s journey is the last few inches — the space between a person’s eyes or ears and the various regions of the brain.”

I would add “the heart.” To get their passion, you have to get out there and meet them. You have to do outreach … even in the enemy camp. And with all the information bombarding your constituencies, you have to make sure that what you’re saying is being heard. You need a reliable feedback system. All that may require that you redesign your organizational structure. This is the only way I believe that an authentic enterprise can operate in a democratized world where reputation is decentralized.

We have to own that space between the person’s eyes and ears … but we also want their heart. It’s the best way to build a reservoir of good will that will protect and preserve reputation through the hard times that are inevitable in today’s global economy.

Technorati Tags: Frank Lloyd Wright, Sanford-Washington Post, Republicans, Democrats, The New York Times, David Brooks, heart, passion, business, communications, public relations


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