Start With Why: Effective Organizational Messaging

Posted by Allison Carpenter on Dec 16, 2016 9:08:53 AM

In Impact, Company Culture, Lessons Learned, messaging, Problem Solving


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On Monday I sat in a meeting with a team member and we talked about how our blog was performing. We pondered if the content topics were interesting enough, if the posts were getting enough traction, we even wondered if we might need to change our content strategy all together. 

 

We, like many other organizations, are pushing out a lot of content all with the purpose of getting people excited about what we do. But what impression is it making? Is it even having an impression?

 

We are doing great work, but why should anyone care?

 

We’re too focused on the “what”

Effective organizational messaging is not an intuitive matter. People have a natural tendency to talk about the “what.” What products you sell, what services you offer, what clients you’ve worked with before… But the “what” reveals nothing about the purpose of a company, the mission of the company, and more importantly, the very soul of the company. People don’t latch onto the “what,” they latch onto the WHY.

 

“Marketing is about values. This is a very complicated world...a very noisy world… and we aren’t going to get a chance to get people to remember much about us… so we have to be really clear on what we want them to know about us.”

 

The quote above is part of a larger recording of Steve Jobs at Apple’s headquarters when he delivered the announcement of the revamp of Apple’s brand and the corresponding launch of their new campaign Think Differently.

 

 

Throughout the speech Jobs reiterates time and time again that the best brands out there are not pushing out content or advertising focused on what products or services they’re selling, but instead they focus on why they’re doing what they’re doing.

 

Jobs emphasizes this point with an example. He asks his audience to think about great brands. Nike for instance. Jobs exclaims,

 

“Nike sells a commodity… Yet when you think of Nike, you feel some different then a shoe company… In their ads they never talk about the product...They honor great athletes and honor great athletics.”

 

Yes, Nike produces great running shoes, but that’s not why the company is in existence. They create great running shoes to honor athletics and athletes who use their products. 

 

Answering the “why” of your organization

For this portion, I am going to lean on expert Simon Sinek, renowned for his work helping individuals and companies find their purpose of why it is they do what they do.

 

We’ll start with Sinek’s Golden Circle:

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This diagram explains why some organization can inspire audiences and why other organizations cannot. Sinek explains that all organizations know what they do. That’s easy. Most know how they do what they do. But where the winners and losers of organization’s messaging is determined is when it comes to answering the why.  

 

The inspiring leaders and organizations, big and small, regardless of industry, all communicate from the inside of the circle to the outside. They start with why. Why > How > What

 

Sinek uses Apple’s messaging as an example of an inspiring organization that thinks from the inside out. A fitting example given that Jobs explained this very notion in the recording above years earlier...


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People Don’t Buy What You Do, They Buy Why You Do It

Getting down to the “why” of your organization is no simple task, and it’s not a task for one person. Get your team together. Think about what unites your organization and the people within. Go through the exercise Sinek lays out above. Once you have truly identified the “why,” the very reason your organization exists, write down and share it with the world.

 

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