By Tim Hayes


A guy I think the world of told me today he was throwing in the towel.  The frustration had reached the tipping point.  He’d had enough.  A man can only stand so much.  No mas, no mas.  He’d played his last fantasy football game and was hanging up his pixilated cleats.


To have reached such a definitive conclusion a mere three weeks into this tender young season seemed rather draconian to me and I told him so, but his mind was made up.  He’d given it his best shot and had his heart broken.  It was over.


How curious we humans can be.  We can plan and strategize and hold high hopes for success, but if we take a pie in the face early on, we’re ready to give up.  The practice of communications in support of business falls victim to this character flaw all too often, I’m sorry to report.


As I work with leaders of organizations – especially those that are just forming, or that are at an early spot on their evolutionary trajectory – a “bet the house” mentality can occur when it comes to message development and delivery.  Tight budgets shoulder some of the blame, but it’s really more a function of these enthusiastic entrepreneurs simply not having the experience to know that you can’t win a war with a single cannon shot, no matter how big. 


Simply put, they think – or, perhaps more accurately, they talk themselves into the notion – that issuing a major announcement (once) will get them on the map.  That if we make a big enough splash (once), investors and vendors and customers will be beating down their door for the chance to get in on the ground floor of this better mousetrap, whatever it is.


Communications professionals know better.  We know human nature.  We know that people just aren’t that perceptive.  Or alert.  Or interested.  Or smart.  You don’t win a war with a single cannon blast.  It takes lots of cannon, air cover, artillery and infantry.  It takes repetition.  Establishing the most relevant and persuasive messaging based on careful research and insightful writing, then sending it out to the most appropriate audiences over and over.  Consistency and constancy win this race. 


As I was learning to drive a car many years ago, the instructor from the driving school would tell me to “steer to the horizon.”  He said if you drove solely by reacting to road conditions immediately in front of the car, you’d guarantee an accident.  It’s too stressful, it’s too exhausting, and you don’t have time to react properly anyway.  Instead, he said to look at the road ahead.  It’s a more reliable and safer way to get where you’re going.


All in all, not a bad metaphor for a lot of things in life, including business communications.  It’s a long road to get people to notice your message, much less understand and act upon it.  Keep looking ahead and don’t let the potholes along the way slow you down or make you stop.  Know where you’re going, and why, and how, then steer to the horizon.


Copyright 2009 Tim Hayes Consulting