“The small grass is feel ashamed to smile, please don’t bother it.”
“Please use the escalator on your behind.”
“Take the Initiative for Bringing Invalidity Pregnant Parks.”
No, we’re not making the above phrases up. These are actual public signs posted in foreign countries, where English is definitely not the first language. Now, the reader can almost get the idea of what they were aiming at— but not quite. That’s because the authors of those signs have some of the right words—but definitely not all of them.
Result? A lot of blog sites that compile these kinds of signs because they’re funny to those of us who understand proper English. But these kinds of “lost in translation” examples also illustrate a huge point that’s important to everyone who wants to effectively communicate their personal brand: You may think you’re talking the language of your potential customers or clients, but, in reality, you may not be making your point any more clearly than the sign for the handicapped bathroom that reads, “Deformed Man Toilet.”
That’s because, as an authority in your field, you have a certain expertise that most of your audience does not. That’s great, because that expertise is the basis of your business and brand; you’re selling a knowledge base that your customers lack. But that advantage also sets up a challenge, in that those customers may have difficulty understanding what you’re trying to convey. Just because you know what you’re talking about doesn’t mean they do.
The most common causes of miscommunication in conveying your brand are:
* Providing inadequate information, so that your audience reaches its own conclusions, rather than the one you intended. For example, if you fail to let people know why you have credibility in your area, they may not fully believe your messaging.
* Misinterpretation, where you word things in such a way that the audience gets the wrong idea. A good example of this is when you overexplain something, and people think it’s too complicated for them to deal with.
* Cultural differences, as seen in the first two paragraphs of this blog! If your brand extends beyond the borders of your country, you can easily make the wrong impression—and have no idea why!
The good news is that you can solve these potential problems before they happen—by making sure your communication is efficient and effective. Here are a few ways your personal branding efforts can bridge the gap between what you know and what your potential customer doesn’t:
* Consider the best way to convey your information.
Is it better to do a series of Internet videos to communicate your personal brand? Or are a series of books better suited to your purpose? Decide what medium allows you to most clearly articulate your personal brand—as well as gives you the best shot at reaching your specific niche.
* Use the simplest, clearest language to communicate.
Jargon is a great shortcut to “talk shop” when you’re commiserating with fellow professionals—but it’s the worst possible way to talk to your leads. The more complex your language is, the more likely you’re liable to leave your audiences confused—so use plain and simple wording whenever possible.
* Go from A to Z.
Structure can be all-important when you’re talking to an audience. The old three-point rule of “tell 'em what you’re going to tell 'em, tell 'em, tell 'em what you told 'em” is actually some ancient wisdom from Aristotle himself. Don’t jump around with information; instead, put it in a clear and understandable order that people can easily follow.
* Tailor your presentation to the audience you’re talking to.
If you’re communicating with a very specific niche, make sure you speak their language. If it’s a group of soccer moms, be practical and down-to-earth; if it’s a C-level seminar, be polished and informative. And, if you’re in another country, make sure you know the rules of the game there. Remember, it’s all about them, not all about you.
There’s no doubt miscommunication can be costly; just ask the state of New Jersey, because it cost them $200 million a few years ago. Communication should always be a decisive advantage to your personal brand, not a detriment—so make sure your message is coming through loud and clear!
JW Dicks (@jwdicks) & Nick Nanton (@nicknanton) are best-selling authors who consult for small- and medium-size businesses on how to build their business through personality-driven marketing, personal-brand positioning, guaranteed media, and mining hidden business assets. They offer free articles, white papers, and case studies at celebritybrandingagency.com.
[Image: Flickr user Ktoine]