While it’s tempting to think that coming to consensus represents good brand ideas and communication concepts winning out and a team fully aligned, it’s often the case that consensus is a way to politely sidestep what people truly fear – conflict. But healthy debate should always trump the pursuit of benign alignment. It’s how you make the good idea better.
A COMMITMENT TO LISTEN
Leaders who value input do themselves a favor by asking others to voice their opinion and then listening carefully. In particular, people outside of their area expertise can provide helpful insights as they’re not immersed in the details of the work. These ‘fresh eyes’ can reveal a lot. Or sometimes nothing.
However, leaders are not obliged to interpret this feedback as fact. And this is where many of us run afoul – attempting to adjust and please everyone at the expense of doing what’s best, right or strategically sound.
Like it or not, we all come to the table with our own biases and preferences. We bring strong personal opinions that seep over and taint our professional judgment. As we evaluate marketing and communication initiatives, seeking consensus can be problematic as it can dilute the way the brand is positioned, how it communicates, and how it is perceived by the audience.
Perhaps you've had conversations around communication topics with this type of pushback:
BRAND DESIGN: “I don’t like that color.” “The typeface is too modern, too big, too small, too _______.”
MESSAGE: “Do we have to say it this way?” “We’re too stodgy.” “We should be more playful.” “We should talk more about X and less about Y.”
MARKETING: “I don’t like our ads.” “We should be advertising more.” “Our website needs more videos.” “Our competitors are on Instragram so we should be there, too.”
I’ve seen brands lose their punch, watched messages get diluted of their power, and observed marketing campaigns that fell flat because consensus prevailed. The real problem with consensus is that customers are the ones who lose out. They don’t get to see, hear or experience unique brands being bold and memorable. Instead they encounter another brand that lacks differentiation in a crowded market.
Any strategic communication approach should come equipped with thoughtful rationale for brand development, messaging and content marketing, and the most effective ways to reach the target audience.
AN OBLIGATION TO LEAD
As leaders we must ask ourselves:
- Is this feedback pivotal or is it personal preference?
- Do we have a strong case for 'why' that can turn skeptics into believers?
For today’s leader to be an effective chief brand ambassador, there needs to be equal parts business acumen, deft communication skills and social psychology at work. Introduce something new, bold or challenging and rest assured it will take time for everyone to embrace it.
So take all the feedback you can get. Sift up what’s valuable and adjust as appropriate. Lead with conviction and confidence. And then give it time.
Dare I call it consensus, but you just might be surprised how big the bandwagon gets when people see all of the brand pieces coming together.