If you work in communications as a Chief Communications or Marketing Officer (or someone aspiring to become one), you’re responsible for telling your company’s story—to your customers, your employees, your investors, and the general public.
Why should a customer use your product? Why should an employee come to work (besides a paycheck)? Why should an investor believe in the future of your company? Why should the public care at all?
Yet, as these 5 TED Talks show, telling an effective story is about more than just spinning a good yarn. To motivate employees, buyers, and investors, you have to give them something to believe in.
- The Puzzle Of Motivation – Dan Pink, Career Analyst (18-min)
A failed lawyer and former speechwriter for Vice President Al Gore, Pink explains that our traditional ideas about what motivates people—i.e. the promise of a reward or the threat of punishment—are totally wrong.
Carrots and sticks, Pink says, work only when talking about highly mechanistic tasks—things like financial accounting or computer programming—that are rule-based and clear cut. In those cases, higher rewards do often equal higher performance.
For almost everything else, carrots and sticks are, if anything, detrimental to performance. The higher the financial incentive, the worse people do.
If everything we know about performance is wrong, then what is right?
According to Pink, it’s all about intrinsic motivation. It’s about “the desire to do things because they matter because we like it, they're interesting, or part of something important.”
Getting the most out of your employees (and ensuring they stick around for a long time), then, is about making sure they understand why their work matters.
- How Great Leaders Inspire Action – Simon Sinek, Leadership Expert (18-min)
According to Sinek, most of us talk about ideas—not to mention our products and services—all wrong.
We start, he says, with what we do. Then we explain why we’re better than our competitors, and expect people to do what we want them to do—to buy our product, subscribe to our newsletter, apply to work at our business.
It’s not very effective.
Great leaders and great companies, he says, do it differently. They start with the why.
“People don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it,” Sinek says. “If you talk about what you believe, you will attract those who believe what you believe.”
Effective communication means getting to the heart of your company’s identity: Why do you do what you do? It’s not just to make money. As Daniel Pink explained in his talk, money only means so much.
Once you can articulate why you—and your company—do what you do, you can begin to attract the type of customer you want.
- How to Get Your Ideas to Spread – Seth Godin, Entrepreneur and Blogger (19-min)
Marketing guru Seth Godin explains that ideas don’t spread the way they used to.
For a long time, according to Godin, businesses tried to make average products for average people, because that was the biggest market. They advertised these average products on TV, and in the era before the DVR, those average people had no choice but to watch them.
Times have changed, however, and the “TV-industrial complex” upon which this entire system depended is no more. People now have endless choices and too many demands on their attention, and it’s harder than ever to get them to notice you.
The solution? Be remarkable, according to Godin. No more making average products. Instead, make something weird. Something wild. Something that shakes people out of their complacency and makes them take notice. Something that gets them talking.
According to Godin, “the riskiest thing you can do now is be safe.”
- Let's Go All in on Selling Sustainability – Steve Howard, Corporate Innovator (13-min)
Howard, the Chief Sustainability Officer at Swedish furniture giant IKEA, says businesses and corporations must lead the way on sustainability.
As more people worldwide are brought into the middle class, constraints on resources will only grow more urgent. According to Howard, companies must decide what matters to them and do the work necessary to ensure their processes are in line with their values.
For IKEA, that’s meant investing in LED lights, renewable energy, and better cotton, a growing technique that uses 60% less water and has significantly larger yields. (IKEA also happens to be excellent at implementing proactive reputation strategies).
Howard says the key is to completely commit to sustainability.
“And this is what business needs to do: go all-in, go 100 percent, because then you stop investing in the old stuff, you invest in the new stuff, you lower costs, you use your supply chain and your creativity and you get the prices down so everybody can afford the best lights so they can save energy.”
- The Behavior of Trust in the Workplace – Jacqueline Oliveira (11-min)
In an increasingly interconnected world, and an increasingly global workforce, it’s more important than ever to be able to communicate across cultures.
With remote teams spread across continents and with sometimes radically different ways of working, communications officers need to know how to build trust with different employees (and different customers) around the world.
In her talk, Jacqueline Oliveira, a consultant, discuss the subtle differences in the ways different cultures interpret trustworthiness and how they build trust between coworkers. She says that trust is built through three elements: competence, integrity, and caring. But different cultures interpret these elements in very different ways.
Americans, for instance, value honesty more than anything. The Japanese, on the other hand, are all about loyalty. Without taking into account these cultural differences, it’s possible to cause offense without even knowing it.
This talk is invaluable if you’re looking to build trust with vastly different audiences across your company.
Communication in the 21st century requires new skills
Chief Communications Officers face an increasingly complex world that requires new approaches that are both bolder and more subtle than those used in the past. These TED Talks show just how important it is to provide meaning, purpose, and value to the people who matter most.