How to avoid the 7 Titanic mistakes of communication
More than 100 years on, the sinking of the Titanic remains that quintessentially gripping disaster story. The so-called “unsinkable” ship, the RMS Titanic struck an iceberg near midnight on April 14, 1912, broke in two and sunk with the loss of 1517 lives.
It was man-versus-nature, but with the benefit of hindsight the tragedy could have been avoided. Critically, the ocean liner’s crew should have heeded warnings from other vessels of icebergs that lay ahead. But, as history records, the Titanic kept on at full pace, eager to make New York on time. By the time lookout Frederick Fleet spotted the iceberg it was too late; the ship had barely 40 seconds to take evasive action.
Today, ships have the benefit of a variety of smarts - satellite technology, digital navigation and radar – which guarantees the safety of those at sea.
In marketing and communications, we need to deploy our own smarts. Unfortunately, many organisations do not look ahead or, worse, repeat the mistakes of others because they do not follow advice.
In our work, we see seven common but Titanic mistakes that will scuttle your best efforts. The good news is they can be avoided.
Build a loyal following across your own platforms and use social media discerningly to support those endeavours. Beware as the Sirens of social media will serenade you.
Spending money unnecessarily: Well, who wants to do that? But the reality is that many marketing budgets are poorly managed or directed. It is often what CEOs or CMOs complain about – resources spent on campaigns that do not provide a real benefit to the bottom line. Or campaigns that create a fleeting buzz, but like any sugar-hit the result dissipates quickly.
Rubbish content: We regularly see organisations frustrated by the lack of traction their content receives. But let us be frank: so much content out there is bland, boring and banal. Creating a community requires quality content. Much of what you see on social media is repetitive and cliched. What resonates is content that provides the audience with insights or solutions to their problems, supported by real results and compelling personal stories or case studies. And, gee, loosen the tie and show some personality rather than blending in with the rest of the crowded web scene.
Ignoring the X-factor: Typically, only about 10 per cent of an iceberg is visible. In the Titanic’s case, another 70 million tonnes of rock-hard Greenland ice sat below the waterline. What we often do not recognise are those people around us who will help us achieve our ambitions. Is your team as inspired or as well-functioning as it should be? Is it structured to meet the needs of your audiences? Do you provide employees with the training, coaching, equipment and encouragement to excel?
Not acting strategically: Developing strategy takes time, expertise and resources, which is counter-intuitive for these fast-paced times where agility and snap decisions are the go. But, as we outline in SMART™, the foundation to successful communications is a strategic plan. Disorganisation is death.
Going scattergun: Which is the product of not being strategic. This means jumping at every shiny new toy. Sometimes you will get results, but most of the time it means missing the mark. Going scattergun shows up your naivety and puts you on a direct path to a Titanic disaster, maybe to your own career as those around you wonder what the heck is your plan.
Not valuing communications: Not everyone gets the need to communicate. There are still some sectors and some bosses for whom it is not a priority. This could be because they come from the old “no news is good news” school of communications. Or they believe their sector does not have communications sex appeal. Or they have never thought to build their organisation around a community of content. For those comms teams, it is about socialising the value of communications within the organisation. But if they strike out, ring-a-ding-ding – iceberg ahead.
Not controlling your own distribution: And here, for me, is the greatest and most deadly mistake comms teams can make – surrendering all to social. Yes, social media can and does bring great reach for organisations. An entire industry is constantly prompting you to invest resources and marketing via social channels. But that should not be the sum total of your communications strategy, not the least because ever-changing algorithms can relegate you and your connections from hero to zero. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other platforms espouse lofty ideals about making the world a better place by connecting us all, but they are there to turn a profit. Having built their own audiences, they are aggressively moving to an advertising model. The free ride is over and you now have to pay for reach. Understand too, the web is only going to get busier. The wisest strategy is to build a loyal following across your own platforms, such as on your website, blog or via email marketing, and use social media in a discerning way to support those endeavours. Beware: the Sirens of social media will serenade you.
You cannot always expect smooth sailing as communication techniques evolve exponentially. But avoiding these seven classic mistakes will help you steer away from trouble and put you ahead of the rest of the pack.