If you take your client at her word, pore over her data, then create and implement a strategic plan based solely on the aforementioned, then you’re an order taker. It doesn’t matter how strategic and creative your plan may be, it’s one dimensional.

Here’s why. You must challenge your client’s value proposition and key messages before you create or implement a plan. Put yourself in her audience’s shoes, experience her organization, products or services from an outside-in perspective and determine if the brand promise delivers the intended user experience.

First Steps

Learn everything about the client organization and its proposed campaign. Train your team to think and act like one of the client’s audience members. Hand them their assignments and wish them well.

The Customer’s Shoes

Your team should sit alongside a CFO and determine if your client’s white papers really are informative, insightful and helpful. Or they should find out first-hand if the car you’ve been asked to tout as the edgiest thing on the road really is turning heads on the dealer floor and the highway. Or if the appliance they’re being asked to promote is breaking down more often than the Jets on any given Sunday.

It’s your job to be the eyes and ears of the client’s communications department. And, to cry bullshit if the hyperbole is completely disingenuous.

Let ‘er Rip

Have your team capture their experiences on audio or video and share that “voice of the customer” with your direct client. Then ask her to invite other decision makers to join you in their conference room for the unveil. That’s when the magic occurs. Watch C-suite executives wince in pain as they hear such first-person narratives as:

“You say your restaurants are 2016’s answer to the corner bar, but I’d say it’s more like a greasy spoon in Penn Station.”

“You say your manufacturing products are chosen because they’re more environmentally sensitive. But we sat in on sales meetings and prospects only purchase your products because you’ll cut them the best deal.”

If that doesn’t set your client’s head spinning, then nothing will. It will also uncover seismic gaps that other departments of the organization need to fix before you can make a course correction in the authenticity of your client’s messaging.

Strategic partners make it their business to understand if the brand promise is authentic.

They test the promise first-hand to see if it rings true. Only then do we craft a communications plan that spreads the client’s gospel while matching the end user’s needs.

We call it Audience Experience, and have used it to make fundamental communications and bottom-line contributions to clients in industries ranging from accounting and appliances to banks and retailers.

You can do the same. But first you need to leave your ivory tower and do the job a truly strategic communications partner should be performing: stress testing the credibility of the client’s campaign messaging before a single tactic is implemented.

So, what size shoe do you wear?

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