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We’re an industry of words – whether written or spoken, our bread and butter is, at its core, words.
- What position will the candidate take?
- What is the company’s announcement going to be?
- Talking points, key messages, sound bites…
The list goes on and on. The problem – words themselves – while having the immense power to move mountains, by themselves are meaningless.
We see the disparity all the time in our everyday lives – from clients, job candidates, partnering firms, subordinates and superiors. “My utmost concern is…”, “We’ll do anything it takes to…”, “It’s very important to me that…”
And while it’s important to hear these words for our egos and to hopefully get a first peek at priorities, the downside is they can be spouted off without much consequence. How much consequence depends on who’s spouting and who’s receiving. Usually (hopefully) this isn’t intentional – but the fact is we generally want to tell people what they want to hear – we like to make other people happy, particularly in this biz.
If you really want to know where your audience’s highest priorities are – examine their “finite resources” – i.e. time and money – and see how those are spent. The test there becomes, where do priorities X, Y and Z fall on the spectrum of importance. Cause Z can be a client’s pet pro bono project and very important to them (and get brought up time and again in meetings), yet not get sufficient funding because there are other, higher priorities that have a direct (or more profitable, more impactful, more <whatever>) business impact.
Stop just listening and begin watching as well.