It’s Not What You Say, It’s What They Hear

May 30, 2013

Print

An introduction from the Managing Director of Ketchum’s newest partner, maslansky + partners EMEA.

The Right Language

What’s the problem?

In today’s digitally-powered world, saying something about a brand, product or issue has never been easier. So why does it feel increasingly difficult to be heard – to have an impact, change an opinion, drive action?

I’d like to suggest it’s because WHAT marketers and communicators are saying hasn’t caught up with HOW we’re saying it.

In short, we have a language problem.

The REAL Digital Divide

While the digital revolution has radically altered how we deliver information, it has had an equally profound, yet far-less discussed impact on how customers, legislators, voters, employees – anyone we’re trying to reach – HEAR what we are trying to say.

Accordingly, while the communication industry has been quick to leverage the power of new media, the way brands develop and articulate what they are trying to say has remained essentially unchanged over the past 50 years.

Let me explain.

The traditional approach to crafting messages is to gather a bunch of subject-matter experts and leverage their knowledge and expertise to come up with what to say and how to say it.  The problem is that digitally-savvy audiences are growing ever more cynical and selective regarding what they choose to listen to and believe. While at the same time, the sophistication of modern business means that decision-makers are increasingly removed from how their audiences speak and think.

Even when communicators test what they’re looking to say, message inputs and research methodologies often err on the side of fact and reason in spite of recent neuroscientific research showing that people actually react to communication emotionally, not rationally.

The result of all this is a series of dangerous communication gaps between what communicators are trying to say and what their intended audiences are actually hearing: what brands know to be true, audiences increasingly doubt; what communicators see as relevant is often different from what really interests their stakeholders; what we believe to be clear, to them can still seem confusing; and what we want to make exciting, to them often sounds like just another company talking about itself.

It’s time for a different approach.

It’s Not What You Say, It’s What They Hear

At the end of the day, it’s not what marketers and communicators say that matters, it’s what our audiences HEAR.

The words, language and images we use must resonate not with us but with them, on a real, emotional level. In this brave new world, what we say and how we say it must be ever more relevant, credible and finely tuned if we are to have any chance of being heard.

Which is why today my company, maslansky + partners, is teaming up with Ketchum Europe to launch a new way for brands, industries, CEOs and political candidates to maximize the results of their marketing and communication efforts.

A New Approach

By combining our unique approach to language and messaging with Ketchum’s unmatched ability to engage audiences, we will help clients address their critical communication challenges using the right language and images, delivered in the right way and at the right time to have the biggest possible impact.

Using our research-driven approach to measuring real-world, emotional reactions to words and articulations, we will help clients maximize the effectiveness of their marketing and communication investments – so they know for a fact before they spend anything on delivering their message, speech or platform that they are doing so using the right messages in language that truly works with their audience.

By doing so, we will help bridge the widening gap between the sophistication with which communicators are leveraging the delivery potential of new media – and the outdated ways they are still talking to their audiences.

Keith is partner and managing director EMEA at maslansky + partners, the only global research and strategy firm focused solely on identifying the specific message frames and words that change perceptions and influence decision-making. Recognized by The New York Times, the BBC and the Washington Post as the leader in message-based research, m+p measures real-world emotional reactions to communication and marketing to help clients maximize their impact. A native of New York City, Keith is based in London and Paris and is reachable at kyazmir@maslansky.com