Originally published in the Boulder Daily Camera and the Longmont Daily Times-Call.

I like dogs. Really. Just ask Duke or Patches or Cinder or any of the other loyal canines that have wagged their tails over Kibbles at our house.

Dogs are loyal. Dogs are funny. Dogs are caring. Dogs are empathetic. Dogs are comforting. But dogs also can be dangerous. I keep that in mind when I’m running around Golden Ponds, Macintosh Lake and the other trails shared by people and dogs.

Sometimes dogs, off or on leash, make a run at runners. Even while the dog is nibbling at Nikes and threatening to bisect a hamstring or two, the owner is shouting assurances that their pet is friendly and wouldn’t hurt a fly. I’m not nice when that happens to me. I ignore the owner. The dog will tell me what I need to know. I confront the dog. In that confrontation, the dog signals whether he or she is really friendly or really bent out of shape. The dog is always more honest than the owner.

Observation is equally important in business and marketing. It is the linkage between what is being communicated and what target audiences are receiving.

In the words of Albert Nobel …”one can state, without exaggeration, that the observation of and the search for similarities and differences are the basics of all human knowledge…”.

Whether in business, politics, or any other field, savvy communicators focus on listening and observing. They’re skeptical of shouted assurances from dog owners. They put more faith in seeing things from the dog’s point of view. Whether they are sending or receiving messages, effective communicators are looking for answers to such questions as:

  • What is the context of the message being delivered?
  • Does the person or business delivering the message have credibility?
  • What is the body language or subliminal message behind the message?
  • Is the communicator making a positive impact?
  • What is the “real” goal embedded in the messaging? Are there hidden or personal agendas?
  • Are there facts to back up the statements?

Business success can be measured by how effectively those communicating for the businesses answer those and related questions. It’s pointless and profitless to spend time and resources generating marketing messages without advance assurance that the messages will be received and reacted to in the manner intended. That assurance comes through close observation of target audiences, their needs, their desires, their values and their belief systems. It comes also with listening to feedback, reassessing messages in light of new opportunities and ensuring that all messages measure up in terms of delivery and credibility.

That’s why it’s important to step back periodically, call a time out, and critically observe what is going on. If businesses aren’t sure where their marketing messages are going, they’ll never know if the messages are getting there. That’s akin to putting messages in a bottle, throwing them in the ocean and hoping that someday the bottle will wash ashore somewhere.

When a dog chases after me, I put little stock in what a distant owner is shouting. Owners have no credibility with me. I trust the dog. In that runner-dog confrontation moment, observation reveals the dog’s intention. The dog is either going to shred my shorts or become my newest best friend.

Observation has similar results in business communication.

On a totally unrelated note, thanks to one of my faithful readers who went far out of his way to touch base with me during Longmont Start-Up Week. Jim, it was a pleasure meeting you in person.

Stacy Cornay is the owner of Communication Concepts Public Relations & Advertising. 
Visit www.comm-concepts.com or call 303-651-6612.

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