Content is King – Context is Queen

You are responsible for 100% of your communication. Communication breakdown is the responsibility of the communicator. At a recent 2014 BRB Conference sponsored by the CMA, I lead a roundtable discussion on the topic of “content is king – context is queen”. The following includes some of our discussion.

It’s not just what you communicate but how you communicate it. There are many ways to say the same thing, but each may come across differently depending on the words used, the tonality, the body language and the audience. This does not even take into account all the noise and clutter between the sender and receiver.

Splitting the usual definition of content into two parts will allow you to work with the elements of each to make your communication better.

Content versus Context

The Content – the facts and information.

The Context can have two meanings. The first is “the interrelated conditions in which something exists or occurs like the environment or setting – such as when we are reading Shakespeare, we have to understand the historical situation to better understand his meaning.

The use of social media and any communication channels the way the recipient wants to use them falls into this definition of context. People use social media to make conversation and connections. If content is not consistent with the channel it will not be heard.

The second part of the definition is “the parts of a discourse that surround a word or passage and can throw light on its meaning”. This is considered to be the more important meaning because it can add feeling and emotion; it is the unconscious communication that complements the facts and adds value.

Start with the right content and then complement with the right context. Make sure the context does not overpower the content or the right message will not be received.

Rational versus Emotional

Maslow helps us understand needs with his hierarchy starting with the basic need of food and shelter. Consumers are also driven by wants. You may need a new car but you may want a new corvette. Usually your rational side is driven by needs and your emotional side is driven by wants. In many instances purchases are the results of both the need and the want.

So what? Evoke the senses to capitalize on the want or emotional.  People react more strongly to language that evokes one of their senses. Most have a bias towards either their eye, ears or hands. Their internal representation of the world may be leading them to preferring visual, auditory or kinesthetic (feeling). Descriptions including more of one sense then another may miss then mark on certain audiences.

Using facts and figures instead of images can lower the interactions of some consumers. In many instances our brains are hard wired to base decisions on emotion and familiarity.

The Brain

The right brain is said to be the creative side – the left the process. Some scientists make the split in terms of new and old.

The new side of your brain controls all of you conscious, rational and analytical thought. Some people think of this as the left-brain. When you talk about facts, figures, and statistics, you are speaking to the new left-brain. Decision-making does not happen here.

Your old brain controls behaviour, decision-making and emotions, but it cannot process words, numbers or language. If you want to inspire action, appeal to the emotional side of the brain.

Layering emotional decision-making opportunities with rational information could increase the purchase intent and strengthen the brands sticking power. Each target is unique. Women in particular will synthesize the two types of information – emotional and rational – in making decisions. When communicating with the right mix of messaging, the desired outcome is more likely.

The strongest communication is both rational and emotional.

Unconscious Communication

People look at faces to set the tone and gauge the emotion of an interaction. The face catches your attention and then pulls your attention o the product. Since people react to non-verbal cues (unconscious communication) from the face, match the emotion you want to inspire.

When you see pictures or a video of an action, your mirror neurons make you feel like you are actually there performing the action. You become engaged unconsciously.

Speaking to your audience previously stored memory immediately evokes emotion. Saying that the new activity will make you feel as good as your best holiday will allow each person to recall their own best memory.

People have an underlying urge to share knowledge in order to look good or in-the-know. So when we see something new, we are attracted to that information to tell others and build our social currency. “New” is a strong word.

Neuroscientists have found that the way your brain works is not a right or wrong – it’s just the way it is. Knowing that some people are motivated by moving towards something versus moving away from something (avoiding) helps us in achieving the desired behaviour we are seeking.

The travel industry is using this concept, probably without even knowing it. On one hand you may see an ad that says “Fly with us to the warmth of Florida”. “Towards” people will be encourage or motivated by this ad. On the other hand you may see an ad that says “Leave the cold of Toronto and fly with us to Florida.” The “away from or avoidance” people will be motivated by this ad. Again, this is not a right or wrong, it is just who we are and how our individual brains work at the unconscious level.

What Now?

Take one of the learnings from above and practice. Not each will work for everyone so try a couple of different ones. Take control of your communication and make it stronger.

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