Finding Resonance in Your Organization and Your Outreach
The long low hum of the Tibetan bowl at the conclusion of yoga class. The tenor of the prayer bell struck before church service. An African drum circle in a Mozambican neighborhood. I feel these things physically as a thrumming throughout my body and quite literally my heart. The sensation is resonance and the experience of it is both harmonic and evocative.
Resonance is not the sole domain of musicians and choirs. Various types of resonance, such as mechanical, optical, orbital, and electrical, are present in many systems throughout the man-made and natural worlds. Resonance can also occur within the constructs of our businesses and communications.
Resonance in your professional work is what allows you to successfully build brand awareness and loyalty, make ideas stick, reach more people, and realize your mission. Both inwardly and outwardly your organization vibrates on frequencies that are either harmonious or discordant, and ultimately your impact is either amplified or contracted.
How do you create a resonance that attracts others to your cause? How do you find the kind of reverberations in your work that moves body and soul and policy? Let’s consider where resonance can be achieved: in business operations, in mission, and in marketing and outreach efforts.
The point of origin for a truly resonant organization is its operations because what’s going on internally will affect your external efforts. Of course a company can be outwardly successful in creating a buzz or securing funding or making big changes. But none of that is going to be sustainable or sticky unless internal systems are concordant. There are many aspects to business operations but since we’re communication professionals, we’ll curtail our exploration to internal communication system and process.
Flow, or the feeling of movement without impediment, is essential to creating resonant internal communications. Without fluidity, internal dialogue is muddled and resulting external efforts are frustrating, herky-jerky and dissonant. There are a number of aspects that can impede flow:
Lack of clarity about mission and vision
It’s not uncommon for employees to have divergent perceptions of their organization’s mission and as time goes on, the chances of this occurring increase. But in order to speak effectively to the outside world, everyone must have a shared understanding of their company’s mission and a singular answer to the question “why does what we do matter?” Without company vernacular defined, endless hours will be wasted trying to reinvent this wheel every time. Take the time to conduct strategic planning and visioning and involve everyone on staff or at least share the resulting work company-wide. Revisit it periodically. An explanation of how mission and other organization activities are messaged should be included as part of onboarding all new employees.
Misaligned or non-existent marketing materials
It should go without saying that not having the right kind of marketing collateral is going to hamper efforts to make outreach happen. Equally frustrating are materials that do not accurately represent the company’s vision and purpose. In the absence of appropriate collateral, staff often feel stuck, ill-prepared or embarrassed to share. And when the inevitable moment comes when some sort of marketing collateral is required, many times it’s a last-minute scramble for development and production with less than optimal outcomes.
Disorganization of brand assets and marketing materials
Despite all the time and energy that goes into creating professional marketing materials, too often we see no central organization of them on the client side. Materials are either scattered about in people’s inboxes or individual cloud accounts. Hunting around for logos, templates, or photos can cause needless delay and inefficiencies. A central location should be established. Everyone on staff should be aware of how to access it and instructed on how to handle content changes and version control.
Mismanagement of brand image and content
A lack of direction for using and creating brand visuals leads to inconsistencies that degrade the quality of the brand image or create confusion among your audiences. In addition to defining a style guide, outgoing messages should be clearly outlined. Having no defined process for content creation and lack of ownership over content administration promotes internal discord.
For situations where there is a complex service offering or a family of sub-brands, it’s a good idea to visually articulate the brand architecture or service structure to ensure everyone has the same understanding.
Identify and map the workflow for creating communications — from content ideation to publication — including how and when to secure approval from decision-makers so they do not become bottlenecks.
Resonance can be described by its tonality, the sum of individual sounds, colors, images, words. Tonality is also an apt description of brand identity. Brand identity is not just your logo or even a few key images that you might use regularly. Rather it is the totality of messages and visuals that come together to create your specific look and feel. It is how your organization outwardly expresses itself and how your customers perceive you. Brand identity also includes the feelings evoked during interactions someone has with your organization. But if what you put out there is incongruent with how others are taking you in, it will be very difficult to find the kind of vibrational harmony in your external communication efforts that propels your brand. This leads us to our next point in our exploration of resonance: your audience.
Audience and Messaging
For resonance to occur, there have to be at least two elements involved to transfer energies and the elements have to vibrate at the same frequency. In terms of audience, this means finding out who they are, where they are and what they need from you. It’s learning about the things that challenge your customers and what motivates them so that your messages ring true.
Other characteristics of resonance are its energy and frequency which we can think in terms of the delivery of your marketing messages. While your external communications don’t need to be rah-rah high energy, the key messages about your organization and your offering should be vibrant, sincere, and enthusiastic. They must speak to the heart of the “why” in the question “Why should I care?” Their frequency can be either high or low, the level of which depends on what your customers need, how much contact with you serves them and sustains the relationship.
True resonance causes a body to vibrate in sympathy. There is a call back, an echo, in response to the initial stimulus. When your audience experiences alignment between message and experience, you will see that reflected back as their increased engagement and your decreased effort to persuade them. It also means that the customer experience you offer adapts to your customers' input and insights as you gain them.
When your mission resonates with others, you are able to enact changes at a wider and deeper scale. Your work is elevated and its impact amplified. Resonance in purpose is quite literally making waves.
Resonance is defined by its Q factor, or quality factor. Q describes the degree to which a resonator is restricted or what its bandwidth is in relation to its center frequency. Systems with a high Q factor are less restricted and therefore have a lower rate of energy loss than those with a low Q. In other words, the reverberation of high Q resonance dies out more slowly. If we think about the Q factor of the resonance we are striving for in our businesses and communications, then the more we focus on quality and flow in our efforts, the more broad reaching and sustainable our work will be.