Home » OPINION » Columns » TODD SMITH — How leaders, executives can make their messages resonate

TODD SMITH — How leaders, executives can make their messages resonate

TODD SMITH

TODD SMITH

As a leader, your voice speaks much louder than your words. Your voice isn’t just what you say, it’s how your audience hears you, and the collective tone your actions and communication take. Does your voice represent you and your message as well as it could?

Over time, the best leaders are able to make their ideas and influence resonate far outside their own ambits. Here are six ways to get your voice to carry throughout your entire organization as recently discussed at Fast Company

1. Be Authentic

Yes, it’s an overused word, but I think that’s because our idea of what’s “authentic” is too narrow. It’s not just about transparency or vulnerability, it’s also about letting the people you lead see what you truly care about. Resonant leaders are genuinely invested in their work, and it shows. It’s easy for team members to see that they truly have “skin in the game” and care not only about short-term results, but also about long-term impact. As Tim Schigel, cofounder of the social sharing platform ShareThis, said, “Authenticity doesn’t have to amplify.” When you’re truly invested in your message, you don’t have to shout. It’s apparent to others, and it lends credibility to your leadership.

To begin cultivating authenticity, ask yourself, “Can the people on my team see what I stand for, or do they have to guess?”

2. Be Unique

Authenticity alone isn’t sufficient. Resonant leaders have the courage to make clear decisions, even in the face of uncertainty. The word “decide” comes from the Latin word that means “to cut off.” You’re choosing to cut off other options and commit to one direction, even when you’re uncertain. However, many leaders prefer to keep their options open for as long as possible out of fear of getting it wrong and failing. But you have to be willing to commit to a path by following your intuition and making bold, unique decisions with the best information you have available. This isn’t a license to be foolish or rash, but recognition that every needlessly delayed decision has a trickle-down effect on your team’s focus and productivity. You need to stand apart from those seeking safety over impact.

To begin cultivating uniqueness, ask, “Where am I being ambiguous about a decision, and how might it be affecting my team?”

3. Be Precise

When faced with a difficult choice, some leaders go into “protect mode” rather than being precise with their language. In order to make your ideas resonate, you can’t leave room for misinterpretation about where you stand on an issue or what you expect from team members. Be like a laser, not a lighthouse. A lighthouse tells ships where not to go, but provides no navigational guidance beyond helping them avoid danger areas. A laser, on the other hand, is precise, cutting, and directional. Your team needs to know what you expect of them, even when they don’t like it. Precise leaders can be polarizing, but in the end they make everyone’s job easier to navigate.

To begin cultivating precision, ask, “Where are my instructions vague, and where am I being defensive rather than forthright with my ideas?”

4. Be Consistent

Your voice won’t resonate if it isn’t consistent. Again, this sounds obvious on the surface, but meeting day-to-day challenges can make it difficult. If your work lacks a strong through-line, it can become easy to treat projects as one-off events rather than as a part of a bigger strategy. If you regularly send dissonant messages, it might be difficult for team members to anticipate how you’ll respond in a given situation. And that in turn can lead to paralysis. There should be consistency in the choices you make and a consonance to the way you communicate them.

To cultivate consonance, ask, “Where am I being inconsistent, and how can I give my decision-making and communication more uniformity?”

5. Be Empathetic

How deeply do you connect with your team? Is your leadership coming from a position of empathy, or are you trying to control behavior? Jeremy Pryor, co-founder of Epipheo Studios, told me that the digital video company’s ambition is to make the audience the hero for any work it produces. The messaging is always centered around the audience’s needs and aspirations, rather than its own. Starting from a position of empathy, especially during difficult conversations, can make a major difference. Seek, an innovation consultancy, applies a four-step process to help cultivate empathy:

» Decide to choose empathy over easier, short-cut options

» Identify a time when you’ve experienced a similar event

» Recall how that event affected you and relive the emotions

» Then act based upon your newfound understanding.

Taking a few moments before communicating an idea to walk through these four steps can help you connect more deeply with your team.

To begin cultivating greater empathy, ask, “How can I can build common ground with my team?”

6. Be Attuned To Timing

The best idea delivered at the wrong time will fall flat. There’s no way to perfectly time ideas, but the most resonant leaders are mindful of how timing affects their ability to hit the mark. Making your message resonate is about more than just what you care about or what your team cares about, it’s also about staying sensitive to the ideas that already have some momentum within your organization. By staying aware of those undercurrents, you can time your message so that it has a better chance of resonating in the right place at the right time.

To increase your chances of resonating, ask, “Is this the appropriate time to deliver this idea? Is there anything already being discussed that I can connect my own idea to in order to give it context?”

Your voice is your single greatest possession as a leader. It’s what allows you to mobilize and direct your team, and ultimately it’s how you build a body of work you can be proud of. If your work matters to you, make the effort to cultivate a voice that resonates, and you’ll find your influence multiplying in ways you never expected.

Instagram ads go global, including new 30-second commercials

Instagram is done experimenting and is ready to ramp up ad revenue. It’s making three big changes to attract marketing dollars from around the world and other ad mediums. Finally, Instagram will make back the money Facebook spent buying it.

First, Instagram ads are officially available in 30 more countries including Mexico, India and South Korea, and will be on sale globally by the end of September. After users in core markets proved loyal despite having ads injected in their feeds, all 300 million people who use Instagram will now see ads. And instead of only working with big brands, Instagram is opening up ads to businesses of all sizes.

Second, Instagram is now courting television and online advertisers with more standardized formats and buying options. Instagram will allow advertisers to run 30-second video ads, rather than just 15 second ones, and use landscape dimensions instead of just squares. Landscape and portrait mode came to users last month, though Instagram’s James Quarles told me it wouldn’t be technically feasible to expand the video length limit to 30 seconds for non-advertisers. This means businesses can easily port their television commercials into Instagram ads.

Instagram is also debuting a new buying option called Marquee that lets advertisers “own a moment” and reach a huge swath of the user base quickly. This is ideal for big product launches or movie releases where brands want big first-day sales. Fox will run the first marquee for its new TV shows, including Scream Queens.

And third, Instagram is luring advertisers from a wider array of industries to its ads with improved calls to action. These include travel, entertainment, ecommerce, and retail. After testing “Shop Now”, “Install Now”, “Sign Up”, and “Learn More” options, these direct response formats that can link outside of Instagram will open to all advertisers.

Two-Sided Mic | Hillary strikes new tone, apologizes for E-Mail scandal

Before apologizing for using a private e-mail server as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton’s campaign held a focus group. The New York Times reported Clinton’s aides showed footage of a contentious news conference to a group of New Hampshire independents and Democrats last week. The group “showed that the e-mail issue was drowning out nearly everything else that Clinton was hoping to communicate to voters,” the Times reported. Days later, Clinton inched forward with an apology for “confusion” over the private e-mail issue. Then Clinton apologized for using a private server in an interview with ABC News. “I could have – and should have – done a better job answering questions earlier.” Uh, yeah, and PR| Reputation 101 is to apologize for mistakes, communicate your plans to make amends and earn trust by reforming your ways. All this is confusing The Spin Cycle – and the public. For that, Hillary takes a Two-Sided Mic!

Each week, The Spin Cycle will bestow a Golden Mic Award to the person, group or company in the court of public opinion that best exemplifies the tenets of solid PR, marketing and advertising – and those who don’t. Stay tuned – and step-up to the mic! And remember … Amplify Your Brand!

» Todd Smith is president and chief communications officer of Deane, Smith & Partners, a full-service branding, PR, marketing and advertising firm with offices in Jackson. The firm — based in Nashville, Tenn. — is also affiliated with Mad Genius. Contact him at todd@deanesmithpartners.com, and follow him @spinsurgeon.

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