Employ Strategic Entertainment to Gain Competitive Advantage

By Jon Stetson

In today’s corporate structure, everyone is trying to get an “edge.” Companies want to wow their customers, their stakeholders and even their employees so their brand and their message stay relevant and meaningful in the current marketplace. How can companies get that edge? By using live communication and entertainment tools in a strategic way, by taking calculated risks and by putting the human element back into every experience the company promotes.

Realize that bombarding people with fact after fact – whether at an annual convention, at the weekly sales meeting or in an advertising campaign – numbs people’s brains. Today’s audiences need to feel, need to laugh, need to applaud, and need an “ah-ha” experience. For example, look at this year’s commercials during the Super Bowl, which is a traditional advertising venue. Ads today are more human and humor-based than ever before. Why? Because the messaging and the way the message is delivered is what’s important to audiences. This concept applies whether you’re a small business with less than ten employees or a multi-national corporation.

As a result of this trend, businesses are scrambling to capture both the mind-share and heart-share of their audiences. This is important, because mind-share plus heart-share equals productivity-share. If you can use strategic entertainment to open up the hearts and minds of your intended audience, chances are they’re going to do more for you because they get your message, they like it and they experience it. So whether you’re trying to motivate your sales team at the weekly meeting, engage your customers with a thoughtful marketing campaign or reach people from the podium with an awe-inspiring speaker, you want your audience to open up and embrace the experience you’re providing. In the end, the audience’s experience, their reactions and their subsequent actions – what they think and do as a result of their experience – are critical measurement tools for your message’s Return on Investment (ROI) and Return on Objectives (ROO), and for your future event and messaging strategy.

Using strategic entertainment and live communication tools can be extremely effective, yet it takes confidence, and unfortunately, many companies are leery of trying something new. But realize that the people and companies that get results are the ones willing to stick their necks out and try new things. Remember, too, that building a brand that sticks or crafting a message that triggers action isn’t easy. Today’s new brand may be tomorrow’s old news. That’s why you need to constantly communicate to your audience in a way that engages them and captures their hearts and minds.

In order for your company to use strategic entertainment in a way that advances your message, consider the following points.

Take the traditional blinders off: You need to be creative and stick your neck out to get ahead. The first step to doing that is to become a student of the strategic entertainment process. Talk to a creative advisor about your company’s objectives for your next sales meeting, adverting campaign, convention, etc., and allow the discovery process to occur. If you’re willing to put yourself back into the classroom, so to speak, and be open to learning about new ideas and concepts, then over time you can develop the confidence to try something new. In the long run, whether you embark on a new direction by using strategic entertainment or continue the company’s existing direction, your decision and selection process will be better, thus causing your results to be better, simply because you were willing explore a new concept rather than keep a closed mind.

Have a clear picture of the meeting, event or marketing message: Often, people planning a meeting, event or branding initiative don’t have enough information to make an informed decision. For example, a meeting planner who is in charge of finding a speaker for the company’s annual convention will call a speaker’s bureau and say, “We need a motivational speaker.” But there are over twenty different definitions of a motivational speaker. It could be a rock climber, someone who lived through a catastrophic experience, or a rags to riches story, just to name a few. In other words, people are overwhelmed with options. That’s why you have to set some time aside and think the meeting, event, or message through, even if you’re only going to be communicating with a small group of in-house employees. Don’t just say that you want to inspire your salespeople or that you want your customers to buy your products. Who is your intended audience? What pains or stresses do they have? What is the theme of your meeting, event or branding initiative? How are your company’s products doing in the marketplace? All this information is critical for you to be able to communicate effectively with your audience.

Focus on creative concepts and ideas: Most people have an idea for their meeting, event or branding message and think that one idea is the only option. But planning one that uses strategic entertainment is much like writing—usually the first thing you write down is not the final product you print. Sure, you need to have a talking point or a starting point in terms of what you think you want, but then you have to go deeper and share ideas with others. Throw some concepts on the table, create a storyboard of ideas, and then see if the original idea has stayed the same. It’s all about keeping an open mind. You need to get input from others and be receptive to new ideas because someone else may come up with an innovative concept you never thought of. You need someone to challenge you and what you want in terms of the message and the event. Only then will your final product have impact and meaning on your audience.

Clearly communicate your needs, concerns and feelings to those responsible for the meeting, event or message: Unfortunately, the human aspect is missing in corporate America today. Technology has replaced many human interactions and conversations. While e-mail and instant messenger are great for relaying information to others, you’ll get much better results when you actually interact with someone, whether on the phone or face-to-face. During these interactions, involve and engage people by talking about the needs, concerns and feelings you have about your meeting, event, or message. If those who are responsible for creating a strategic entertainment experience for your audience don’t know upfront what the marching orders are, they could be going off on a tangent that’s light years away from what you want simply because you’re not clearly communicating from the start.

Get the Return You Want – Strategically: Being able to connect with your audience is paramount in today’s corporate environment. To stay ahead of your competition, you must be innovative and constantly trying to reach forward—trying to do better than last year. That’s where strategic entertainment will give you the edge. So whether you’re writing the agenda for your weekly sales meeting, creating your company’s next marketing campaign or planning the speaker for your next convention, remember that audiences want an experience, not just a fact-filled message. The more you give your audience what they want, the more apt they’ll be to give you the return you want, which will lead to greater bottom-line results for everyone involved.  

Read other articles and learn more about Jon Stetson.

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