corporate communications

Get Outside of Your Echo Chamber

Creative Commons photo by David Shankbone

Creative Commons photo by David Shankbone

One of the first rules of effective communications is to know your audience.

No matter what you’re trying to sell, or who you’re trying to persuade, it's critical to both understand and speak to your key audiences.

But in a culture that has become toxically divided, is it possible that we’re becoming too good at targeting our most ardent supporters?

In politics, in business, in nonprofits, and on our Facebook feeds, people and institutions are incredibly adept at stirring up the people who align with them. As they do so, they are turning off massive waves of people who might otherwise hold similar values and ideals.

This approach can yield great short-term results — but it also carries a dangerous long-term cost.

For a politician who is fighting to win an election, playing to the base can help drum up support and enthusiasm — but it can lead to massive dissent once he or she gets into office.

For a nonprofit that is looking to capitalize quickly on a hot-button issue, this can help inspire folks to donate — but it doesn’t really help grow the donor base long term.

And for those of us looking to vent on Facebook or Twitter, it can feel satisfying to get folks to retweet and like our comments, but it can actually damage long-term friendships (which I’ve seen happen all too many times among some of my friends).

As communicators and marketers, Scott and I are passionate about helping organizations identify and speak directly to their core audiences.

But we’re equally passionate about helping them expand those audiences — to help them change minds and lead movements.

You can’t do that if you’re only talking to your base.

Whether you’re trying to change minds about important policies, expand your customer base, or win an election against an entrenched incumbent, you can’t accomplish your goals if you’re only speaking in an echo chamber.

Over the coming months, we’re working on projects that will require us to help our clients reach outside of their core audiences and convert new people.

During these divided times, this challenge is greater than ever before.

We’re excited to share what we’re learning as we attempt to conquer that challenge. We’re also looking for examples of others who are trying to communicate across the invisible — but very real — divide between our core audiences and the ones we need to reach.

Tell us how you’re communicating in a divided world — and what you’re learning as a result. These are challenging times and we all need to be in this together.

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5 Easy Ways to Leverage Your Annual Report

It’s the time of year when annual reports are starting to land in mailboxes or post to Websites. 

And depending on how the process went down this year, you’re likely admiring the glossy result, or vowing to never lay your eyes on it again. 

Both options, while understandable, are selling your annual report way too short. 

There are plenty of easy and effective ways to further leverage your annual report now that it is complete. And considering the time, money, and resources you committed, it only makes sense to get some more good mileage out of the finished product.

The good news is that regardless of whether you have come to love or hate this year’s report, it’s relatively simple to squeeze some more value out of it. Here are 5 possibilities:

PR pitches

Annual reports, with their predominant year-in-review focus, typically aren’t a source for breaking news. Still, a second look might reveal some potential headline-makers for either the local or industry press. Is there a major accomplishment or milestone featured that could be newsworthy? Record-breaking financial results or notable new products or projects? Does your CEO’s letter include some nuggets that could provide the framework for a pitch about your company’s growth or community commitment? Are there any employees featured? “Smithville Native Spotlighted in XYZ Annual Report” is a no brainer for a local newspaper’s business section. Not only is it good earned media for your company, but also provides a nice hometown pat on the back for the employee featured.


The best annual reports feature a letter to shareholders in which your CEO offers up some compelling insights about trends in your industry or impact in your community.  Fortunately, the best op-eds often focus on the same things. Take another read through the CEO letter to assess if it contains the framework or news hook for a good op-ed either for an industry publication or a local, regional or national newspaper. Odds are you’ll be surprised by the possibilities after reviewing the letter with a different mindset. 

Web Content

Sidebars that are focused on innovative programs, new initiatives, customer profiles or community service are no brainers as fodder for fresh web content. Often a well-written sidebar can become a blog post with little or no reworking. Infographics can also serve as the foundation for new web content. Don’t just think external – annual report content can be a great source for an internal drip campaign to get employees better versed in your company’s business and performance. 

Sales and recruiting support

Too few companies fully leverage an annual reports potential as a sales tool or recruiting piece. If enough printed copies are available, share them with your sales team with some simple tips on how the book can be used to highlight key aspects of your company during a sales call or, as a leave-behind for a prospect to gain a deeper understanding and confidence in your company.  Same goes for career fairs -- or at very least making sure several copies are available in areas in which job candidates will be waiting for interviews. 


No doubt countless hours are wasted in organizations by people starting PowerPoint and other presentations “from scratch.”  Yet odds are good that there are several elements within your annual report – from branded design to approved images – that could serve as great elements for presentation templates or guidelines. Work with your creative team to leverage some content images and graphics that can provide information about your company in an effective and consistent way. This not only saves time and helps ensure your company is being presented well, it also positions your communications team as adding value to partners throughout the company. 

Sure, we get that after months of work and worry in the annual report birthing process, you might want to just move on. Yet, making just a little more effort to think about how to further leverage the report is bound to make your company – and your team -- look really good.