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

As I made a mad dash over the bushes, between the buildings and over a curb I kept thinking – what went wrong?

Earlier in the evening my friends and I gathered, eggs in hand, near a road in our town with a fair amount of traffic. Our plan was to throw our eggs at cars as they came down the road. It would be great fun. Soon a car made its way toward us. Together we launched our eggs. Our planning, however, didn’t anticipate that the driver would stop their car and take chase. In our minds it all made sense. In reality, it was a very bad idea.

Ever had a great idea and amazingly everyone agreed with it? Feels wonderful doesn’t it. But it should be a red flag – particularly if you are in business.

While no one enjoys negative or critical feedback, it is essential when developing communication plans, messaging, advertising and any other communication aimed at potential customers or clients. Failure to seek input from others who may see things differently may lead you directly in to the dreaded echo chamber.

What is an echo chamber? It’s insular communication that takes place between a group of people where everyone agrees with the information and no outside input is allowed. So, it’s simply confirming your own beliefs with others who have the same beliefs.

The echo chamber effect is most easily observed in the marketing world when something controversial takes place. Failing to fully understand target audiences, combined with a tendency to think that others must think as they do, has led many large and small advertisers to withdraw and/or apologize for poorly thought out campaigns.

Mistakes happen, but this type of mistake is avoidable.

The best way to ensure that you are not in an echo chamber is to solicit feedback from others who may not agree with you, or may see things in a different way. Something that may be funny or cutting edge to some groups may be very insulting to others. At the least you may be totally missing your mark.

Each day I find myself playing the Devil’s advocate. When planning strategies, messaging or visual communication, I always try to think how it may be misinterpreted by others. What might be taken out of context? What might others see that I’m missing? Are the strategies and messaging being planned more than just knee jerk reactions?

Exposure for your business is a good thing. I’ve talked many times about making sure that you know your target audiences and how to best reach them. Exposure that shows that you clearly don’t understand your target audiences can be very damaging. This is often where we see the “What were they thinking?” moments.

Communication, for many years, has become more and more polarized. There are many reasons for this, but to be effective in communicating with others the echo chamber must be avoided. It is also important to realize that others, including your target audiences, may be living in their own echo chambers.

Facts, figures and testimonials are a great way to combat the isolation of echo chambers. Listening is also extremely important. If you aren’t listening to your customers or clients, then you won’t really understand their needs.

Do your research. Read – a lot. Echo chambers don’t survive when faced with compelling contradictory information. The more well-read you are, the better you will be able to identify your own echo chamber tendencies, as well as others’.

Most importantly, if everyone agrees with what you are doing – take a step back. Are you about to launch eggs?

Stacy Cornay is the owner of Communication Concepts Public Relations & Advertising. 
She may be reached at 303-651-6612; scornay@comm-concepts.com; www.comm-concepts.com; Facebook.com/Communication Concepts; Twitter @CommConceptsPR; or Linked In.

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