There is much to be understood by the types of questions our customers ask us. One of the most important lessons in sales is to focus on the customer questions as they may provide a key on what they want to be sold and a litmus test of whether that’s what you want to provide. The pre sales conversations with customers not only help in aiding with a closure, but on a larger level, understand the temperament of the community. As a part of the communication business for a decade, there has been a noticeable change in these discussions, and these changes can provide a foundation for us to understand the evolution of our community.
An Era Of Quantity: “How Many Coverage Pieces Can You Guarantee?”
“There are no guarantees in life, only warranties!” exclaimed my ex-CEO. While the line is apt, it was not a statement or sentiment to convey to customers. This was an era where brands targeted share of voice. They wanted to be everywhere, and wanted their communication partners to guarantee this success. This was the time when firms flexed their muscles by measuring the width of the media coverage dossiers and used AVE’s as levers to showcase ROI on PR.
An Era Of Scientific Messaging: “Can you help us with clear messaging to differentiate?”
Many messaging models came about, and one of the leading firms tabled their ‘messaging house’ as a one-stop solution to answering. As this era progressed, more and more focus was given to messaging, each word was scrutinised and metric slumbered from quantity-focus to quality-focus. This was a critical pivot in our community, as brands started to realise that communications was much more than just media coverage. As a result, our definition of public relations started to take on a new avatar.
An Era Of Relevance: “What can we do to ensure our messaging is insights-driven, heard and remembered? “
The science of the message was key to the changing dynamics of the business, but as one of my customers remarked, ‘we can’t sit in a AC boardroom and understand the psyche of our customer who travels by local every day to work waking up by 4am to reach home by 10pm every night’. There was a need to get out of our offices and speak to our consumers, partners, employees and other stakeholders to provide the fuel for not only scientific, but also relevant messaging.
An Era Of Outcomes: “We are currently dealing with this challenge; how can you help us?”
Whether it is to scale, create a new category, attract great teams & build inclusive cultures, attract investment or create a legacy, these are the way communication briefs have transformed. Firms have been truly propelled to consultancies, and today, require a continued understanding of our craft and new channels, a precise understanding of business models, and strong knowledge management systems to share data and business perspectives across teams. This has led to outcome-focused content being a leading deliverable to gain success in any mandate. The community has been pushed to create proprietary models, build strong partner networks, and inculcate technology to leverage efficiencies. The community is forcing clients to deliver business-based briefs and align on brand & business based metrics.
The journey of a communications professional has slowly evolved beyond the cubicle, in a few cases, even made it to the leadership and boards of companies they consult. A couple of years back we saw the first communication professional to be appointed as a Managing Director of a large, Tier I automobile company in India. The evolution of the community has seen consultancies move from being vendors to partners to advisors and eventually leaders, within their customer portfolios. With the current pandemic, maybe an era of empathy is peeking, but as for now, consultancies are working to align with the new expectations that have evolved as brands have started to understand more and more that communication often sits at the center of their business.
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