Recently, I read a quote credited to Sydney J. Harris that really resonated with me: “The two words ‘information’ and ‘communication’ are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through.”
The reason the quote resonated so strongly is that I have been making this distinction throughout my career, advocating for the importance of not only providing the audience with what they need to know, but also why they need to know it.
Words are a commodity. We all use them daily, so it is easy to forget that there is often a huge difference between providing information and communicating a strong message.
While information serves to keep people updated, its purpose is functional and does not inspire or lead to engagement, adoption or customer loyalty.
Communication, on the other hand, can make all the difference in how employees, partners and customers view your brand. However, for a message to be effective and persuasive, its purpose must have little to do with your company and everything to do with your audience. Its reach must extend way beyond a single department and needs to permeate every facet of your organization on the inside if its true external purpose is to be achieved.
What Happens When There’s A Failure To Communicate?
When communication is relegated to a single area of your company and is seen as someone else’s responsibility, it becomes difficult for employees to truly embody the brand. If your employees have not bought into your company culture, the value provided by your product or service, and, ultimately, the customer experience, your entire brand can be impacted.
Failing to align the company’s policies, procedures, mission and vision with what your company offers creates a disconnect between the message you are sending at a corporate level and what is being delivered throughout the actual employee and customer journeys.
So, how can those in charge of your company’s communications have an impact that reaches every part of the organization?
Internal Branding: Branding Begins At Home
Every employee must not only understand what your company sells, but also why you are selling it and what problem your product or service solves for the customer. Branding is not an external discipline; it starts within. Every call center agent, salesperson, administrative staff member and, of course, C-level executive needs to be speaking the same language, embodying the same corporate values and projecting the same essence of what your brand stands for during every interaction and conversation they have about your company.
The Power Of The Customer Story
What do your customers think about your brand? How do they feel after an experience with your company? How is their life better because they chose to engage with you? All this is what needs to be captured and communicated in a way that reverberates with those who do not yet know about you, but who could benefit from what you have to offer.
It is one thing to define your brand internally, but if there is a disconnect between what you practice and what you preach, it will become evident very quickly. All the messaging in the world won’t be able to help.
Simply informing customers about what you sell or do is not enough to inspire them to want to buy from you. Talk to your customers. Listen to their experiences; tie the positive ones back into your messaging, and understand how the negative ones can be used for communicating transparency and building trust and loyalty.
Informational Vs. Inspirational
Shaping and controlling your brand’s narrative requires a combination of social listening, market research, customer engagement and employee adoption. Your company’s story needs to be told in a manner that encourages others to embrace it, be part of it and share it. Moving from informing to communicating is a process that involves many elements, but if done correctly, it will result in propelling your messages and your company forward.