Behind the Headlines With Todd Morgano
Todd Morgano, senior vice president at Falls Communications, says businesses need to spend less time talking about themselves and more time talking about how they can help their audiences.
In this interview, Todd discusses how brands can stand out with their communication, what brands need to understand in order to communicate well and how new technology has changed audience’s expectations.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned about marketing communication throughout your career?
Always start with what the customer cares about. Too many businesses talk about themselves in self-serving ways that don’t relate all that well to the concerns or aspirations of the people they’re trying to reach.
If you’re not showing how you can make a meaningful difference in your customers’ lives, then you’re missing a huge opportunity. It sounds simplistic, but plenty of businesses and marketing strategies violate this golden rule.
You’ve helped develop communication strategies for a variety of brands. How do you adapt a strategy to a specific brand or industry?
I don’t think it’s necessarily an adaptive process. Sure, there are some ways of thinking and doing things that are germane to our business that carry across companies, brands and industries. But the most successful communication initiatives I’ve been involved with tend to start with some interesting and particular (to the business) insight that provides what you need to tell a compelling story and leverage a clear point of differentiation.
The strategy doesn’t arise from an alteration of a plan that worked for someone else. It arises out of some novel insight that leads to a novel idea that’s expressed in a novel way.
What are some of the key components of a successful communication strategy?
Understand who you’re talking to and what they care about. Understand how they behave in the world (how, why and where they consume information related to your business). Be clear about what it is you’re trying to accomplish. Know who and what you’re competing against (rival companies, industry trends, short attention spans, etc.).
Understand how and where your product or service intersects with people’s lives. Know what people can get from you that they can’t get anywhere else. Articulate your difference as clearly and persuasively as possible. Measure your results, learn from them and adapt your strategies and tactics as you go.
What are some of the biggest mistakes brands make in their communication?
Acting before understanding. Jumping to the sale too quickly. Doing things that aren’t representative of the brand because others may be finding success with those things. Throwing the kitchen sink at people and generally thinking that more is always better. Repeating things that clearly aren’t working because you’re comfortable with some particular way of doing things.
The communication industry is constantly evolving. What are some of the most important recent changes? How can brands adapt?
Certainly social media has changed the game. Not only because there’s a new platform coming on the scene about every two or three months, but because it has fundamentally altered how businesses and their customers interact with each other.
Customers have and expect direct dialogue with real people inside the companies they choose to do business with. And choose they do. They have the tools and the means to let in and keep out who they want.
Also, every person a business communicates with is essentially his or her own broadcast channel. So every time a business talks with someone, they’re potentially talking to all of the people they know, and all of the people they know.
I also think that data and technology (from automated marketing and ad buying to social media platform management) are changing the very nature of how businesses connect with customers.
As for adapting to such rapid change, it is difficult sometimes. There’s the nagging feeling that you’re always one step behind the next new technology. I think it’s healthy for businesses to experiment with new technologies or platforms, but I often recommend my clients start by taking smaller more manageable bites, so they can test whether a new approach will work for them. In a world where you could be communicating through dozens of mediums, I think it’s more important to do a few things well than to do many poorly.
How can brands stand out in the marketplace today?
Be relevant and interesting. I know that sounds like a cheap, pat answer, but if you don’t have that right, all of the strategies and tactics and technologies won’t save you.
What advice do you have for brands looking to improve their communication?
Be genuine. Again, I know that sounds obvious, but people respond more favorably to companies that communicate honestly and in a way that’s true to who they are.
Rapid Fire Round
1. The thing that gets me up in the morning is…knowing I might be able to help someone today.
2. My hobbies outside of work include…cycling, drumming and cooking.
3. If I was stuck on a desert island, I would…still probably get lost (I have the world’s worst sense of direction).
4. My hidden talent is…I can identify most bands within the first few bars of their songs.
5. I always thought I’d be…a network news anchor or screenwriter.
6. One thing most people don’t know about me is…I was nearly taken down by Dan Quayle’s Secret Service detail.
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