Paying lip service to a ‘why’ or higher purpose that makes you look noble on an About Us page or on LinkedIn might feel good but, if that’s all there is, it soon becomes an empty gesture.
This article looks into why we shouldn’t take the easy option and hide behind our purpose or ‘why’, and how we should look to be leading with actions that demonstrate what we stand for.
A Place To Start From
Mark Schaefer highlighted recently in ‘Please. Let’s not start with your “why” that, in truth, no one’s that bothered about what a company professes to care about, ‘People don’t really know or care about your why. They usually only care about THEIR WHY.’
He cautions against being too self-absorbed, concluding ‘Let’s stop the navel-gazing in our marketing and get out there and talk to some customers. Make your customers — and their why — the centerpiece of your story and your brand.’
This made me think about the fact that reputation, trust and credibility don’t come back to the ‘why’ of a business but the actions it takes based on what they believe in and who they serve.
All About Action
It’s easier to say something than it is to deliver on it.
When I began You Are The Media, I was telling people what to do without having the evidence to back it up. Articles such as ‘do you have an audience or an influence’ when all I had was a handful of Twitter followers or We’re All Part Of The Great Business Reinvention As Media Producers (yep, that lost me too) don’t mean much if the audience and its specific needs aren’t getting a look in.
Perhaps I’m being a bit hard on myself. When you’re starting out it’s all about figuring out exactly who your audience is, but it’s never too early to be communicating in a way that’s relevant and relatable to others.
Over time, you start to recognise exactly who it is that’s joining you and the trick is to always make them and what they’re looking for, your starting point for every piece of content and marketing material.
In the same way that you get to know your audience and can fine-tune what you deliver for them, your purpose can also evolve over time as you demonstrate it to your audience and customers, through the actions you take. So, if you talk about community, demonstrate the power of community. If you say your business is environmentally minded, show what actions you’re taking towards becoming carbon neutral.
To succeed, businesses of course need to care about something other than just their bottom line. Acting out their values and motivation in every interaction with their audience demonstrates they care about them. If what they act on, resonates with an audience and they care about the same things too, then change of the kind the business is looking for, can happen.
Showing The Way
Taking a stand and delivering on something you believe in means being held accountable for your actions and it not just being a quote about doing the right thing, rendered in Canva.
When people see where you’re coming from and that resonates with them, the act of subscribing to you suddenly becomes a whole lot easier.
How It Can Work
My actions focus on showing people how a community works and what it takes to build an owned space from zero (and not spend life living on social media).
You Are The Media is my way of demonstrating what it takes to build a voice in an industry and craft a message that others are going to be interested in. It’s only when that message clicks for your audience that you can start growing, getting them involved and creating a revenue stream.
So, you do need to have clarity on what it is you believe in, what you bring to the barbecue, but even more than that you have to know the people you serve. When you put the two together you’re able to bring people over to your side.
Here are some principles for making it work where your actions are driven by what you stand for:
Be present. Commit to showing up. If you only ever share sporadically and the overarching theme changes frequently, it gets confusing for people.
Don’t jump on bandwagons. Just because a topic is part of the cultural zeitgeist it doesn’t mean you have to jump in. The content you share should come from something you care about.
Develop your own unique voice. This is related to not jumping on bandwagons (see above).
Be relatable. Demonstrate what the change you help bring about looks like through examples your audience can relate to (not just using far removed, corporate examples). This approach helps communicate that, with your help or by taking your advice, they can far more easily achieve what they want or need.
Involve your audience. The people who join you might start off as subscribers but this can be just the beginning. Be open to forming collaborations and partnerships. This will make your whole world much stronger in the long run.
Being vocal about your purpose or your why doesn’t mean much until you deliver on it. You need to live it as well as talk about it.
Getting your purpose and your audience’s needs aligned takes some thinking, trying out, listening, modifying and adapting, as well as constantly being tuned into learning from your audience.