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November 1, 2013 / achanguris

Overcommunication

MegaphoneStop me if you’ve heard this one before:

“Well, we can’t overcommunicate the message…”

In my experience It’s usually delivered in an off-hand manner by someone with a job title that means I can’t respond by screaming bloody murder and running from the room. It’s also usually followed by a laundry list of “suggestions” like a slew of newspaper ads, TV and radio spots and (my personal favorite) billboards.

At some point after I quiet the internal screaming I attempt to calmly explain that it IS possible to overcommunicate. In fact, getting your message out there too much is just as bad as not getting it out there enough (or getting it to the wrong people). There’s a sweet spot in the middle somewhere and finding it is a key component of any communication strategy.

How much is enough? How much is too much?

There’s no one answer, of course. You have to know your market, your audience, and track results to see what works best in terms of ROI. It takes work. It’s work worth doing.

The most intensely communicated message I’ve ever worked with was the launch of my employer’s new logo in 2012. We pulled out all of the stops: TV ads, radio spots, print ads, posts across all of our social media channels, t-shirts, pens, bags, notepads, and even cookies and cupcakes. We had five different events to reveal our new look, three for employees (hospitals run 24/7 and we hit all shifts), one for VIPs and donors and a final event revealing the logo to the public. We went so far as to hire a video crew to capture the moment as our updated signs were unveiled across the campus.

While launching a new logo isn’t something I’ve been able to tie directly to dollars coming in the door (I’m open to ideas on that point), we were able to track media coverage (huge spike, including our CEO appearing live on a DC TV news program) and social media interaction (big uptick in mentions, comments, views, likes, etc.).

More often than not, of course, we can’t take the kitchen sink approach. For a typical hospital-sponsored event, we may run a print ad in our local paper  two or three times, but the rest of the marketing is generally of the “free” variety. We can request PSAs on the radio, post the information to our website and social media properties, and include the details in our email newsletter.

In this case, less investment translates into less return – but that’s fine. For the price of a couple of newspaper placements and a little bit of my time we may attract 50-100 attendees (depending on the subject matter). Of those attendees, some will sign up for our email newsletter. Others might learn about a procedure that could improve their health or the health of a loved one. Most will at least learn something interesting and we’ll start building a relationship. All good things, some measurable and some not.

Consider these two examples and then picture yourself in a 100% imaginary world where we had the ability to go kitchen sink on every message. The community would be under constant bombardment, overcommunicated to to within an inch of their collective sanity.

Find the middle ground, that balance point between whispering from across the room and assaulting the senses of your audience. There may be some trial and error and it will require finesse, but the effort pays great dividends.

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