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

Growing up I heard my Dad say, “INAM” a lot.  He meant, It’s Not About Me.  That’s how he ran his life, and he tried hard to impress this on me, and others.  I’ve been thinking about this lately.  Seems like a lot of people tend to believe “IAM”, It’s About Me. In marketing communications, this often results in negative messaging where it is unwarranted.  It’s simple. When we focus on INAM, our messaging tends to be more positive. Everyone wants someone to understand them, particularly now. We’re building bridges and connections when we communicate in this manner. Focusing on anything other than our clients and customers alienates them when we need them the most.

Attitudes are important in life, certainly in business. Failure to recognize this frequently leaves me baffled. When businesses fall into the It’s About Me category, they lose sight of why people do business with them in the first place, thus isolating themselves from their customers and clients. They certainly don’t create the required feeling necessary to be successful.  Face it, people want to do business with people that make them feel good, and focusing on yourself and your needs doesn’t cut it.

What do I mean? It’s the difference between positive messaging and negative messaging. Positive persuasive messages point out the good things that can happen if people follow a course of action. People use negative emotions, fear, anxiety and disgust, for instance to craft negative persuasive messages.

In communication we’ve known for a long time that negative messaging may be very effective under certain circumstances. It works well when targeting emotions and “scaring” people into purchasing a product or service out of fear of what will happen if they don’t. Think life insurance, medications, alarm systems. Negative messaging often possesses a stronger call to action for advertisers. But I’ve noticed a shift recently, and I’ve discussed it with my communication colleagues who see it as well. In general, we are becoming so fatigued with negative messaging, that it is backfiring.  Most people’s lives have been upended in a negative manner. They aren’t looking for more negative in their lives.

Today, conducting business is harder than it’s been in a very long time.  Many business owners and managers may have never experienced serious calamity, and the hardships it creates. The future is uncertain. However, if your focus strays from making sure that your customers and clients have a great experience with you, then you lose. Now more than ever, we need to build relationships.

As mentioned in a previous column, safety is a huge selling point now.  It’s a must. But so are other things that may be more intangible.

Focusing on creating comfort, happiness, and escape from the world’s troubles is likely to go miles with your various audiences. Focusing on fear, or stress, is likely to leave them cold.  Again, some businesses may do okay in these arenas, but many will not. Additionally, the benefits of thinking and communicating in a positive manner will benefit you as well. Positive language can literally change your brain. Positive words strengthen areas of the brain’s frontal lobes, and promote cognitive function. On the flip side, negative language can block the brain’s natural de-stress mechanisms.

Fully understanding your particular target audience has always been critical to the success of any marketing program. You won’t be able to develop strong strategies, or engagement, without this knowledge. Using this insight, in a positive way, will go far.

Remember, people won’t necessarily remember what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel.  Keep in mind, INAM.  I know I do.

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 LinkedIn.

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