It was unusual to see Bono in a most “un-rock” moment recently. U2’s latest album was automatically added, free of charge, to all iTunes users’ libraries globally. This sparked not gratitude but ire and complaints. In a Facebook session to apologise for the presumptuousness, band frontman Bono said the move was “a drop of megalomania, a touch of generosity and a dash of self-promotion and deep fear that these songs that we poured our life into mightn’t be heard”. Bono’s apology works because of its honesty, vulnerability and humanness (yes, rock stars can also get it wrong).
Apologies are not magic bullets, however. Just ask Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella. During a recent onstage interview Nadella was asked to give women seeking a pay raise, advice. His response was women should trust the system, and it’s good karma not to ask for a raise! This is in a context where Silicon Valley’s gender pay gap is one of the worst on record, with women earning 70% less than their male counterparts.
Thinking on her feet, Nadella’s interviewer, Maria Klawe, immediately stated that women should ask for a raise, but do their research first. But the damage had been done and Nadella’s comment received crushing universal condemnation. He was quick to issue an apology on Twitter and then, realising he needed more than 140 characters to explain, issued a more detailed apology. The honesty in this apology, where he simply states “I answered that question completely wrong”, is refreshing and powerful in its simplicity. His apology goes some way to redeem the unfortunate word salad he served up earlier in the interview.
And finally, can an apology be used even when none is called for? Apologies are so rare that they can make your message stand out. Here is my favorite apology: a tongue in cheek ad by Tasmanian tourist authority. Tasmania was the only Australian destination in Lonely Planet’s list of the top 10 regions to visit in 2015. The ad presents itself as a message to fellow Australians from the people of Tasmania. It looks like a correction and is intriguing enough to make you want to read more.
It outlines all the unique and wonderful things about Tasmania, and also notes: “But we do want to apologise that we weren’t higher up on the list: a decision that has left ourselves and our visitors baffled.” And now to everything else we know about Tasmanians we can add a sense of humor.
How have you seen apologies done well or poorly? Please share – I would love to hear from you.
- You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy local, and that’s kind of the same thing;
- “Keep calm and buy local!”; and
- Did you know if you spend $100 at a local business instead of at a chain store that would put an extra $3 million into our local economy? It would also create thousands of jobs every year.
Some of the local retailers have also entered into the spirit, displaying signs that say “Local is the new black”, or “Shopping at Chadstone is so last-season”. This is the power of palette, where you express the same message in different ways to appeal to different members of your audience. Multiple palettes create interest, energy and traction for your messages.
Matt Church, the founder of Thought Leaders Global, talks about an informal palette and a formal palette as ways of ensuring your messages hit home. For example, a formal palette for a message could be: “Storytelling helps leaders lift engagement with their audience.” An informal palette could be: ‘Storytelling rocks your listener’s world!”
So much of our communication focuses squarely on just one palette and this can be frustrating for communicators, who often despair that people are just not getting it. Try to spread your message across a range of palettes and see your success rate dramatically jump. As for me, I’m off to shop locally.
Please comment, I love sharing your insights.
Similarly, every day our audience battles an information tsunami. Unfortunately, it multiplies our challenges as communicators:
How do we grab eyeballs (attention)?
How do we hold on to this attention (retention); and
How to translate this into behaviour change? (action)
The magic mantra is attention, retention, action.
Using this magic mantra, Air New Zealand has managed to reinvent the tired category of airline safety videos. Every year they release a new air safety video that is pretty much guaranteed to go viral. They have had director Peter Jackson appearing in a Hobbit-themed version called An Unexpected Briefing and another one with Golden Girl Betty White starring in Safety Old School Style, and (my personal favourite!) US fitness personality Richard Simmons and a leotard-clad cabin crew delivering preflight safety messages. Their most recent video featuring bikini-clad models ‘hit political turbulence’ and ended up being pulled. Despite this the airline’s success in this arena is to be applauded.
What if your budget doesn’t stretch to singing stars and videos with high production values? Even a humble sign can be made over using imagination and humour for attention, retention and action. I recently spotted a sign while travelling overseas that instead of demanding the conventional “Keep off the grass”, simply said “The grass is resting”. Touché. Attention, retention and action – all with a humble sign.
Please comment, I love sharing your insights.
Shoot a music video on your iPhone lip-syncing Celine Dion’s All By Myself to share with all your friends, of course! This is exactly what Dion super-fan Richard Dunn did and he was amazed when his video went viral with over 3.7 million views – turning him into an overnight internet sensation.
While this is a novel way to channel boredom – and perhaps the start of a new trend on the rise of airport videos (please no!) – what makes this piece of content work?
Richard Dunn says start by being true to yourself. What do you enjoy doing? Think about how can you channel that into your next communication. In a world where so much information is spun, genuine passion for what you are doing always shines through.
His next tip is to be surprising. So much content washes over us because of its sheer predictability. Surprise grabs attention. Surprise is the secret weapon against information saturation.
And finally, Dunn says he made his video to make his friends laugh. Simple, clear intent. While we can’t have this as our brief, what matters is starting with how we want people to feel when they receive our message. Staring with the emotion, and building our message around it, will help dramatically increase our influence and reach.
Richard Dunn is no longer all by himself. Celine Dion also did a response video, saying how much she loved Richard’s video and inviting him to her show in Las Vegas.
Where have you seen great content / communication work? Please comment, I love hearing from you.