Your Inner Brand14 years, 11 months ago
How you think shapes all your communications. You are a living brand, says Andy Green, and this is at the heart of your success as a communicator.
The most powerful voice you have, no one else can hear. It is a voice shaping your destiny, ability to cope with triumph or disaster, and how you engage with and inspire others in any quest you face. This voice ultimately determines your success as a communicator and the success of your communications. It is the voice within your head.
The starting point for being an outstanding public relations communicator is recognizing that you deliver communications not just through your words, signs or gestures. Nor do you deliver just through your body language. You communicate through the way you think.
You probably know of people who can easily comment on other people’s problems but are blind to their own shortcomings. The ability to understand yourself, your own emotions, and know how your mind works is known as your intra-personal skill. Having a self-awareness and understanding of yourself makes it possible to subsequently develop fully your inter-personal skills. Your intra-personal skill is essentially how you can manage your own thinking – the ability to understand how your thinking works and ultimately master the voice in your head.
Everyone has an inner voice that creates an internal dialogue, a self-talk, which shapes and progresses their thinking and communication. (Your self-talk is not a sign of delusional behaviour!) This self-talk lies at the heart of your subsequent communications. If you are unclear in your mind about how you feel and understand about an issue, the probability is that your subsequent communications will reflect this uncertainty, or fail to convince.
Geldof’s Passion and Belief
The image of Sir Bob Geldof when he launched Band Aid in 1984 is a good of example of someone with a clear sense of passion and belief, who initially had limited resources – at the outset his campaign was just him and his intense reaction to watching BBC news coverage of famine scenes in Ethiopia. Yet he succeeded in creating a major brand and raising valuable funds for famine relief.
His clear sense of purpose fuelled his passion to overcome the odds. A committed community activist can likewise often outwit and perform a well-oiled and well-funded formal public relations programme; witness the success of groups like Greenpeace against major oil companies.
The potential of the focused few was recognized by sociologist Margaret Mead: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has" (Howard, 1984). The starting point for your journey in understanding and becoming an outstanding public relations communicator is to examine what shapes your thinking and how it is manifested in your communications.
Stretch Yourself Awake
Before you read any further, examine the way you are sitting or standing. Stretch your body and create a feeling of being wide awake. Now you have the personal energy to proceed with the right level of concentration.
In order to manage your intra-personal skills you need to understand how your brain interacts with the world around you. Imagine your brain is like a sponge, absorbing ‘information’ from its surrounding environment. According to psychologist George A. Miller (1956), your conscious brain can handle around 500 bits of information every minute. This might seem pretty impressive, yet it pales into insignificance compared with your ability to accommodate fresh deliveries of over 2 million bits of information a minute at an unconscious level.
In public relations practice ‘information’ tends to be defined solely as hard facts, like ‘What is the size of your organization?’ or ‘What products do you sell?’ Information is in reality a much broader concept, consisting of data that engages and interacts with any of our senses – sight, sound, smell taste and touch – as well as our intellectual and emotional capacities. This data could be sensing someone else’s mood or feeling. It could be gaining an impression of whether to trust a person. As my wife commented on someone who had behaved less than ethically, "I knew we shouldn’t have trusted her after she served tinned carrots for dinner!"
Your data gathering at an unconscious level is more effective than your conscious mind in absorbing larger volumes of information and also more profound, higher-grade data. Someone, or an organization, might say to you, "Trust us", but intuitively your instincts might register a feeling of, "There’s something about that person or organization I don’t trust."
This message could exist within your mind as an explicit statement saying, "Don’t trust this person or organization!" The message can also exist as an underlying, non-articulated mood, a general sense of something you cannot quite be specific about, but it is a sign for you to potentially recognize, and base your subsequent actions on.
Nonverbal communications can obtain data about wider emotional/relational matters rather than material facts, offering more truthful insights into what lies behind the verbal message. They are like a ‘window on the soul’. Some of your biggest decisions, such as falling in love, are based on intuition. Although your intuitive feelings might not be consciously, coherently or explicitly stated, learn to recognize the signals your body creates in registering these non-articulated feelings. A key characteristic of outstanding public relations practitioners is they always, always trust their instincts.
Distinguishing Intuitive Signals
When ‘listening’ to your intuition, take care to distinguish intuitive signals based purely on fear. Also check whether the intuitive feelings you have are relevant to the question you face.
A personal experience of mine illustrates this point. I once made a bad decision on a job appointment based on the feeling that the person I was thinking of employing was a ‘nice guy’. My intuition was not at fault: the chap was indeed a nice guy, and still is. He was however, less than good for the job. I should have used a more tightly defined question of "Can this person cope with the specific demands of the job?" to act as a counterbalance against any intuitive feelings.
A simple tool for helping to provoke and articulate intuitive feelings is to first frame the problem you face as a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ option. Then toss a coin to make a decision – heads you do it, tails you don’t. If the coin flips to heads it might prompt the voice in your head to think, "Maybe I should toss it one more time." This is your intuition advising you either that this is the wrong decision, or that it is the wrong time to make a decision.
Think back to when you have had a ‘gut feeling’ about something: did you listen and respond to this feeling? How perceptive was this information? Think about any bad decision you have made. Did you in fact have warnings that you failed to listen to or interpret?
Having soaked up information from your surrounding environment, your mind creates your own mental map of what you perceive as ‘reality’. This mental map is like a theatre stage offering the backdrop, the setting and context within which you act your role in the world. It provides you with your script to guide your actions and communications.
How you perceive this stage setting, your role within it, and your script is personal and unique to you. That is why no two outstanding public relations communicators are the same. Your mental map is different from the mental map of anyone else you are trying to communicate with. Your maps are useful, but are not necessarily right in their interpretation of the world around you.
The London Underground map of the tube system, for example, bears a limited relationship to the geography of London. It is however, a very useful tool to enable you to get around its world.
Your unique mental map of the world is a wonderful creation but does have its flaws. Your unique mental maps will inevitably be incomplete:
• Whatever you do, or say, will be misunderstood in some way.
• You will misunderstand whatever you see, sense, feel or hear in some way.
The fundamental starting point for the effective communicator is recognizing that all communications at an individual level and in any public relations campaign are inherently flawed because you operate within your own unique mental map of the world. As a public relations communicator your communications must work to minimize misunderstanding, and enhance potential understanding.
Michael Bland, a leading UK expert on communications, reflects on the failure to understand other people’s mental maps: "In my experience the most startling flops in public relations stem from a failure to recognize that other people will inevitably see the world different to you; from major companies failing to understand the mentality of activists opposing them, or managers in the middle of a crisis not taking into account what people really want to hear rather than what just suits them. These all originate from an insularity of thinking, and operating within just one world view."
What are the key elements creating, shaping and moulding your mental map, or your organization’s? When you are negotiating, managing others, or seeking to resolve a conflict, do you recognize that other people’s mental maps are different to yours? How are they different?
To develop your intra-personal skills you need to understand what shapes our individual mental maps. The mental maps we create in our minds have a shape and form. Imagine your mental map of the world is like a big tent. Beliefs and values act as your tent poles.
Andy Green is a leading expert in brand storytelling, creative capacity building in communities or teams, and PR strategy.mail the author
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