Monday, August 11, 2014

6 Communication Lessons from the World’s Worst Army Man

"I need the Tonka front-end
loader, a bag of marbles,
and Stretch Armstrong up
here pronto, son!"
If you go back to the 1960s and asked six-year-old me which Army man would be the absolute best one to find wedged in the rocks of a riverbed while on a walk with my dog Lucy sometime in the next century, I’d probably say, “All of them but except the radio guy because you know why? He doesn’t even have a GUN! How come there’s more of them than of the bazooka guys? I don’t like the tan ones cause Army men are green not tan.”

This morning, wedged between some rocks in a riverbed, I found the absolute worst Army man in the world—a one-armed tan-colored radio guy.

I was a bit excited when I first spotted that little guy. I hadn’t seen an Army man in decades, at least not one on deployment, as it were. Still, I was a little disappointed when I saw that it was the radio guy. Then I started thinking about the role the radio guys played in combat and I realized they were actually the baddest dudes on the battlefield.

Want to carpet bomb that Barbie Glamour Camper RV Motor Home Park over there where your sister is playing? Talk to your radio guy. Need a laser-guided missile to take out that underground bunker that’s really just a hole covered with sticks then grass then sand? Radio guy’s your man. He can deliver every weapon you’ve got stockpiled in your twisted little imagination.

But nobody appreciated the value of a talented radio guy in the 1960s because—off the battlefield—20th century communication wasn’t a two-way radio conversation. It was a barrage of one-way messages projected with overwhelming force to inflict the greatest response possible from the targeted audience. There was no dialogue, no networking, no “sharing,” no “liking.” There were just the unremitting monolithic monologues from the media, politicians, and corporate titans—the collective “they” in “they say…”
Related Resources from B2C

The Internet has changed all that, of course, but it’s obvious not everyone has fully grasped how profound that change really is. A lot of organizations still reach for the bazooka guy when they launch their communications campaigns. (And by the way, if your organization still “launches” communication “campaigns,” you might just be working for one of those 20th century dinosaurs.)

It’s not difficult to learn how to communicate effectively in the Interactive Age. You just have to know the rules. Here’s Radio Guy to tell you the six things you need to know to communicate effectively on the Internet battlefield.

“Listen up, folks. I may be the most despised plastic Army man on the playground, but when hellfire is raining down on us, it’s me they turn to. I know how to communicate effectively under the toughest circumstance, so I want you to listen good.

“That was lesson number one. Listen good. When you listen to what the other person is saying you’ll learn what he’s focused on and you will be better able to connect with him on his level.

“Lesson two: Be brief. There’s no time for chit chat on the battlefield. You’ve got to know what you want to say before you say it and get to the point as quickly as you can.

“Three: Be specific about what you want. We’re all bombarded by information the second we set boots on the Internet, so we don’t have time to decipher some mealy mouthed backdoor request. If you want something, spell it out.

“Four: Mind your manners. Brevity and specificity are no excuse for poor manners. When you’re in the middle of a firefight, the last thing you want to do is tick off your allies. You need that person you’re communicating with and ideally you’ve got something they need, too. Don’t scotch the deal by being rude.

“Five: There are no secure lines. Everyone—including the enemy—can hear everything you say. Be mindful of what you share.

“Last and most important, lesson number six: Offer something of value. If you can’t inform, then entertain. You’ve got a hell of a lot of competition for mind share. You’ve got to cut through that flack by bringing you’re A Game to every conversation.

“You remember what I taught you here today and you’ll be just fine. Now get back out there and find my arm, soldier!"

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