Last Sunday, I had the opportunity to share some insights on communication for business with the Karen Community Church. The Church has a ministry dedicated to helping congregants build and grow their business with insights on best practices from various professionals.
I had been invited two weeks earlier about the talk, which gave me ample time to prepare, I had a back and forth on email with the organisers to gauge the kind of audience I was going to talk to. Like how long have they been in business, what is the basic knowledge they have of their operations. What is the age group of the audience? I did get responses but I realised even for the organisers they were still on the fence on who would turn up.
This was the second quarterly talk they had organised in the church and the turnout was based on who wanted to stay after the Sunday service. It was a hit and miss. I wasn’t 100 percent sure exactly who I was going to talk to. I still opted for a simple and relatively generic entry into “communication for business” because everyone thinks it’s all about advertising and PR. Being visible but never quite understanding the power of messaging.
I timed myself, I adjusted my presentation to 3 slides, scribbled and erased my notes on my whiteboard I was fumbling to figure out what exactly to say, in the simplest way, to drive home the most important aspect of all. What’s that? Your business is going nowhere if you can’t clearly say what you do.
For years as a copywriter, one of my hugest frustrations has been clueless clients. Whatever advertising concept they were given they would always say. “That’s not it”, or “think outside the box” [eye roll].
When we would ask them what it was that wasn’t clear or help them redefine it, we realised the brand and marketing managers had absolutely no clue what they sought after. The end result; generic advertising, with no clear competitive edge or definitive brand messaging.
As I grew my skills and was exposed to various aspects of business, especially at the strategic level of management, I realised what the problem had been all along. Vision. And no, not those crappy vision statements crafted by a random consultant who hasn’t bothered to understand the company. They just used generic and lofty marketing terminology which means absolutely nothing. I mean the reason why a business was started; why the individual(s) decided to start a specific type of business and sell a specific service or product.
At the beginning of my talk, last Sunday, I asked people to write the response to this question on cue cards.
“Why did you do the business you do?”
The responses were similar, different words, same concept; “passion”, “survival;”, “money”, the usual. Extremely limiting reasons which are why Kenyan businesses die young.
Everyone is in the business for a quick pay cheque, no one ever seems to look beyond tomorrow. That’s why it’s easier to copy an existing business because you don’t really know why you are doing it aside from for money.
Money is a result it’s not a real reason to do anything. Passion is emotional, it fades. Real business needs structure, grit and it tends to be redundant, because of the systems you build the routine can be boring. It’s the vision, the end goal that matters the most. When you start a business and envision what it looks like 20 years in the future; you can then structure every aspect of your operations around this.
Your vision for your company is a belief system you are crafting which helps create an entire new company culture.
- Defines the kind of product or service you offer
- Defines your target audience and their needs you are solving
And based on these first two definitions it then defines how you communicate.
What you communicate is manifest in:
- The name of your business
- Your visual and experiential identity – how you brand yourself
- The language you use to communicate
- The mediums you choose to communicate through
- Specific social media channels – this is dependent on the target audience and where they engage. You go to them, not the other way round. This may also mean you don’t have to be on social media if your target audience is not.
The deeper I got in to the discussion, on Sunday, the gasps, the wide eyes and the baffled looks in the talk I realised the problem was bigger than I thought.
People may read all these self help management and business books but it won’t really help them. The reality is, as a people, in the broader aspect of society for those in business, a lot of us don’t really think beyond now. And that’s not limited to start ups, this goes for even medium sized companies I have worked with.
But this can change. In my next post on this I will share some pointers with you on how to build a real vision for your company.