If a Tree Falls Does it Make a Noise?

Your communication plan should be built around and assessed on its ability to reach your strategic (or prime prospect) target with your message.  If the people (WHO) you want to talk to are not using a particular channel to gather information that will help them make a purchase decision, then you should not include it in your communication plan.

If a tree falls in the woods and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a noise?  Forget the esoteric interpretations.  If the tree is your message then you paid good money to have it fall in those woods (media channel), and your target audience is not in the woods listening, then as far as you are concerned it made absolutely no noise and has no possibility of delivering a ROI.

Do you know WHO you want/need to talk to?  Do you have it written down?  Is your leadership aligned and committed to the decision?

If not, this is where you start.  Without alignment your best efforts will be constantly thwarted by leadership who have their own opinion as to whether a communication channel makes sense to invest in.  With a written definition, it is much easier to evaluate options in an objective way.

From a general perspective, you simply try to determine how many people in your strategic target actually  use the channel and if the cost per thousand to deliver your message makes relative business sense. There are certainly additional parameters you could consider (e.g. is the channel a credible vehicle for your message?).  But, even if you just focus on determining whether your strategic target uses the channel for getting information you will be making the right promotional investment choice 80% of the time.

Case Study

You are a marketer in an economic development organization.  Your task is to create a communication plan to share information about your community with potential capital investors.  You want to determine if social media is a wise investment of your limited promotional budget.  The problem you are solving for can be written as – Is social media a channel that my strategic target audience uses to get information to help make capital investment decisions?.

You have defined your strategic target ( prime prospect group) as executives in companies with responsibility for making site selection decisions.

Your next step is to find data that will help you better understand whether business executives are using social media channels to get information that will help them decide if your community is a good choice for them to expand/start their business.

Here is some insight you uncover through a Google search –

Based on the available information, it appears investing in social media as part of your communication plan does not appear to be effective.  In fact, any money you might have considered budgeting for social media might actually be better invested in strengthening your community’s online webs presence or in funding incremental site visits.

Here are some typical challenges to the conclusion –

Does this mean social media is not an effective tool?  No, it means if you pay to have a tree fall in the social media woods very few CEOs will hear it.  Social media may be an effective communication channel for some things, but if your goal is to communicate with CEOs then the data strongly suggest it is likely not the most effective channel for your purpose.

But, some of the reports suggested there is business value for CEOs to engage in social media.  Usage is likely to increase, isn’t that reason enough to invest in the media? In my opinion, it is enough to reevaluate the decision in 12-months by asking the same question over again.

But social media is free so what have I got to lose by leveraging it?  In fact, it is not free at all.  Read the article “The Real cost of Social Media” to get a handle on the costs you will incur.  Admittedly, the cost is hidden because it tends to primarily be buried in your overhead.  But, it is anything but free.  And, it is very time consuming.  Time that staff could be investing in other priority work your Organization does.

All my competitors are using social media so they must know something I don’t, right?  Wrong.    having a healthy respect for the intelligence of your competition is good business, it keeps your Organization on its toes.  But, the truth is that companies are led by people, and sometimes smart people do stupid things.  Make up your own mind and don’t simply follow the competition.  You might be interested in this article “10 reasons Why Smart people Do Stupid Things” .


What is your take on the importance of checking to see if your strategic target is using the communication channels you are counting on to carry your message?  Are you consistently checking to see if a tree fell in the forest where your message is that your strategic target might hear it?

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