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The key to engagement is ‘involvement’, but you won’t get it unless you are genuine. You can not fake it

Whinge, whinge, whinge. The longer I work in ‘PR’ the more I hear colleagues in this industry complain about why their cousins in advertising get more budget than they do. I read it in other Blogs. I hear it at events. This ‘why doesn’t anybody love me’ attitude belongs more in Kindergarten than it does in Corporate life. In the real world, as an adult, you don’t get something for nothing. If you can’t justify why you are worth it, that’s really your own problem. The challenge is regardless of whether you can prove your worth or not at an individual level, it is now an industry issue and it is corrosive across the board.

So the question is this – how do you show you can engineer an outcome? Furthermore, how do we show that what we do as a profession engages decision makers that affect our organisation’s bottom line!

Firstly, let’s break it down and understand this word ‘engage’, because it seemingly means different things to different people. I just did a quick search on the definition and it tells me: to engage is to occupy, attract, or involve someone’s interest or attention. There is one word that stands out here – INVOLVE!

We are not simply in the business of attracting someone’s interest – that’s what flashing lights do. We are fundamentally about influencing. The only way to influence to the degree it results in a specific action is to involve the audience or target in such a way as they feel a part of the process. Leonardo DiCaprio says it best in the movie Inception – “An idea is like a virus, resilient, highly contagious and the smallest seed of an idea can grow”.

Neuromarketing is a new field of marketing research that studies consumers’ sensorimotor, cognitive, and affective response to marketing stimuli. It’s not ‘dream science’, but it’s the next closest thing. It supposes we are largely motivated by what makes us feel good. It highlights the pleasure centre of the brain as the focal point and fertile ground where the seed of an idea must be planted. There are four ways to go about this:

Empathy: Do you know who you are talking to when you share your story? I mean really!? It concerns me you don’t. In this age where it’s easier to email than pick up the phone, or heaven forbid speak to someone face to face, I just don’t see enough personal engagement in the PR industry. Sure long lunches of yesteryear aren’t as prevalent, but we didn’t stop enjoying them. People relate to people best. Why it’s crucial you take this on board – well, you learn for one (what makes the other person tick); and two – they start to understand you a little better. This shared empathy is critical. We run a program at my company to ensure our staff really own this. Personal relationships aren’t a ‘nice to have’ – they’re seminal.

Insight: Despite what you may think, you have a perspective no-one else does, because there is no-one who has been exactly where you’ve been before. You’re unique experience offers insight. You need to share it. As a marketer you know only too well the importance of a point of difference. It applies to you, not just your client, or company.

Access: Where you are not the central figure in the engagement, you have the ability to connect. Your network is your strength – be it internal, or external. Building bridges is what good communication is all about. If you work in PR, it’s not just about putting your own clients forward all the time either. The depth of your bench adds to your credibility. Your credibility is your greatest asset in delivering outstanding client service. ‘Networking’ is not a bad word!

Acknowledgment: Everybody likes to feel valued. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs says we all crave self-actualisation, esteem, love or belonging, safety and physiological comforts ie. health. You aren’t in a position to own them all, but you can ‘esteem’. This doesn’t mean being fake and pumping up someone’s tyres. It doesn’t even mean saying thank you. It means being respectful. When you respect your target or audience, you have taken the final step towards engaging them.

It’s not rocket science – the best communicators I know are just genuine people. The Mad Men cliches don’t maketh the man. It’s only when we learn to do this that we will find the purse strings loosen and you really do have the budget to dream big. But be careful what you wish for – when you have the money – you also have the expectations that come along with it.

– My name is Aaron Crowther. Follow me on Twitter @ascommstweeter

2 thoughts on “Four principles of engagement – the germination of ideas

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