by Sharee LeBlanc Broussard, Ph.D. APR
“Don’t just do stuff!” is probably my second most common saying. Why? Because we’re all busy and because simply getting things done can sometimes trump assiduousness (being constant in application or effort; working diligently at a task; persevering; industrious; attentive).
I see this in others (from the most novice students to the most seasoned professionals) and I see this in myself. In a big picture sense, we need to RPIE our work and maybe even our lives – yes, I do believe that you can approach everything from Saturday errands to large campaigns using the four-step process of research, plan, implement, evaluate – and I’m firmly convinced that simply taking a brief PAUSE prior to each task, can help, too.
Before you begin preparing any type of communication, ask yourself some basic questions that’ll help you get through it more efficiently and, hopefully, allow you to produce more effective materials.
- What’s your purpose?
- Who’s your audience?
- Is this useful (or usual)?
- Is it strategic?
- How will it be evaluated (measured)?
If you, as the communicator (source), are not 100% sure of purpose, you’ll struggle and so will your intended receiver. There are actually very few communicative purposes – ex. inform, persuade, entertain, document, inspire, etc. – and each one should be approached differently.
- If your purpose is to INFORM, you’ll be explaining, defining, describing, demonstrating, or even simply answering WWWWWH? (who, what, when, where, why, how).
- If your purpose is to PERSUADE you’ll be using the rhetorical triangle (logos – reason; pathos – emotion; ethos – credibility) to build a case for changing thoughts or behaviors, by making claims and backing them up with evidence, so think about motivation and basic needs [remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs] and use proven techniques like the elaboration likelihood model (ELM): central route/peripheral route to persuasion or hierarchy of effects models like AIDA: attention, interest, desire, action or even some good ol’ persuasive speaking strategies like Monroe’s Motivated Sequence: attention, need, satisfaction, visualization, action.
- If your purpose is to ENTERTAIN or INSPIRE, what key emotions you want people to feel, what “takeaways” or lessons to you want your audience to have?
- If your purpose is to DOCUMENT, determine the necessity of preservation and what the future use will be.
Information is different from advocacy and having a solid foundational purpose will yield stronger results – starting a project by saying I’m going to inform you about why you should donate, is much weaker than approaching it by saying I’m going to build a case for your donation.
The general public is never a target. If you are not 100% sure of who you’re talking to, you might not be talking to anyone. How well can you describe your target? Can you express demographics (measurable) or psychographics (lifestyle) well enough to create a persona that epitomizes your targeted receiver. One easy way to quickly think about this is by considering the myriad of magazines – what are some magazines that your targeted person might read? I like to cook so I frequently think about segmentation along those lines – would the target subscribe to Food & Wine or Chile Pepper or Cooking Light or all of the above? What could be your go-to magazine genre for quick segmentation solidification? Mr. Magazine is fun to follow and the scope what’s available in just this one media type can help bring life to the concept of segmentation.
No one likes their time wasted. People won’t hunt to decipher meaning. With less than eight seconds to catch someone’s attention, the WIIFM? (what’s in it for me?) needs to be answered upfront and needs to be prominent. It shouldn’t be usual either – with such proliferating content vying for attention – what can you offer your receiver that others can’t/aren’t?
Everything must be aligned: mission, goals, objectives as well as tone and voice. If X doesn’t match Y and Z and it won’t contribute to goals, why do it?
Take a close look at the communication. Is it error-free, on-strategy, diplomatic and aligned to achieve its stated purpose? If not, make it be so. Also consider assessment of the effort itself: How will it be measured? What does success look like? If you’re not thinking assessment (e.g. sales, referrals, engagement, traffic, attendance, etc.) then how can you aim properly to achieve desired results?
It’s so easy to get caught up in doing, but briefly PAUSEing should help us work smarter, not harder, and might help us get closer to the international standards described in the Barcelona Declaration of Measurement Principles – particularly the concept of valuing OUTCOMES more than OUTPUTS.
After this, you might be wondering what’s my most common saying? Well, that’s another story for another day 😊
Sharee Broussard is an Associate Professor of Communication Arts and Chair of the Division of Communication, Fine & Performing Arts at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama. She is an award-winning professional, researcher and volunteer. This content is an excerpt of her April 2017 Public Relations Council of Alabama Mobile Chapter networking luncheon presentation [© 2017 by Sharee L. Broussard].
Watch Dr. Broussard as she explains why practitioners in academia should strive to get Accredited in Public Relations here.