Why timing is everything in communications

More powerful than armies, an idea whose time has come.  I think it was Victor Hugo who said that – although Margaret Thatcher famously used it in the last campaign speech before her rise to power in 1979. 

The thing is – it is so true – and it is a critical learning for anyone wanting to deliver effective communications.  Advertisers have known it for years – getting to the target audience at the right time in the right place. 

Talk to me about food when I’m hungry and I’m far more likely to eat what you have on the plate.

Unfortunately the same rules aren’t always applied to corporate communication within companies and organisations.  I understand the need for corporate plans and strategic timetables but just dumping a bunch of information doesn’t amount to a pile of beans if the receivers of that information aren’t ready to listen and, even more importantly, absorb.

It all comes down to that golden rule of communication: Putting yourself in the mindset of the people to whom you are trying to communicate. You might need to prepare the audience for what is coming – explaining the context of what you are doing and why before you hit them with your key message.

This is especially important where your communication is meant to drive a particular action or response from the audience and even more so in a world where we suffer message pollution on a grand scale. 

You think global warming is a problem, try global message overload!  In fact, I would wager that is one of the reasons why the whole story around climate change has failed to hit the mark.  In a world where people are worried about finding a job or paying off debt, it’s hard to think about what might happen in fifty or a hundred years time.

So next time you hear someone say: We have to communicate, consider the mental state of the audience and whether the time is right.  It’s a little like the farmer who plants his seed before it rains.  A little patience can yield a much more effective result.