We’re Asking The Wrong Question

Whether we like it or not, our future depends upon the questions we ask.

Whether we accept it or not, the wrong question can take us in the wrong direction. Or in an old direction that wanders about and wastes our time and effort and creativity.

Alice stood at the crossroads

Before her floated the Cheshire Cat: The font of insight and knowledge in Wonderland.

Alice: “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

The curse of the wrong question

Cheshire Cat: “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,”

Alice: “I don’t much care where.”

Cheshire Cat “Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go,”

Alice: “So long as I get somewhere,”

Cheshire Cat “Oh, you’re sure to do that, if you walk long enough.”

The long, wandering walk down the wrong path

The world of marketing communications has spent eight decades asking the same question.

What should we say?

More often then not, the context of the question is self-serving.

What it really means is, what should we tell people to believe about our organization?

Barking up the wrong tree

Unfortunately, “what should we say” is the question that begins the communication process. And all the creative work that follows.

Based on the answer to that question, message maps are developed. Social media strategies are conjured up. Creative briefs are slaved over. Content tactics are imagined. Media plans are set.

We are obsessed with this one question. And as a result, we obsess over it.

All this obsession worked for a long time.

But not anymore

As the years have passed so too has the control of information and communications. It’s shifted from organizations to the great unwashed public.

That’s when that question stopped working.

Until we get to today when the creative answers to that question seldom work at all.

The reason is simple. Messages, especially self-serving messages, simply don’t work anymore.

The gnats and mayflies effect

Audiences now have the attention span of a gnat and the spare time of a mayfly.

In a connected world of perfect information, there is just too much noise. Too much fragmentation. Too little transparency Too little attention. Too little time.

So even if you find the perfect “what should we say” chances are very good no one will ever find it. Not in the maze of all self-serving commercial blah, blah, blah out there.

So what are the questions we should be asking in that kind of environment?

New age, new approach

There is a new approach to connecting with people. One centered on the emotional purpose that drives them. One that’s based on helping them fulfill their shared purpose rather than hyping them. One driven by their shared stories rather than your self-centered message map.

This new approach replaces messaging with creating experiences.

And that requires a totally different set of initiating questions:

  • Who is our tribe?
  • How do they see the world?
  • What do they want to change?
  • How can we help them?
  • What experiences can we create to help do what they want to do?
  • What stories will they tell?
  • How can we help them share their stories?

Headed in a new direction

Those questions will take you to a totally different way of thinking about what you do.

They require you to see things differently. From the viewpoint of purpose, tribes (not audiences), experiences, and stories (not messages)

Bottom line, they question the very system we have in place. The outdated system in which we are comfortable. Those seven questions require us to think differently.

Oh, no, the status quo

Unfortunately, communications professionals are not taking on that challenge. Instead, the vast majority is defending the status quo.

In fact, they get mad at anything, or anyone, trying to disrupt it.

Despite the fact that the world has changed in eight decades.

So don’t get mad

Try them.

Those seven questions will change what you do. You’ll move from merely communicating with people to connecting with them. And connecting them together.

But that’s just my opinion. What’s your take?