Or How to go from ‘Me too’ to ‘So you’ …
I was sitting in front of the mirror at my hairdresser’s last week, reflecting, as you do when faced with your own face – and I had this epiphany: a good haircut is not so different to good corporate communications. So, as I’m known for telling it like it is, I thought I’d take the time to jot down my reflections and share them with you. You never know, we might learn something worth learning …
So why is a good haircut like good corporate communications?
A good hairdresser or barber can take one look at you and know which style will suit your face shape and hair type. Having found that style, so long as you take care of the condition of your hair and visit your stylist regularly, they can maintain that style to such an extent that nobody ever needs to know you’ve had your hair cut.
Should factors outside of your control – such as the aging process or people’s perceptions about what your particular style represents moving on – a good hairdresser is brave enough to tell you when the time has come to adapt your style and experienced enough to know what to do next.
See where I’m going? Not really? Kind of? Let me spell it out …
A new haircut is like a new company or product launch
When you make a hairdresser’s appointment, you probably already have an idea of what you want – or you may go to your hairdresser or barber with a picture of what you want, your ‘me too’ picture. You may have even taken advice from your friends about what’s on trend so you can be too. Your hairdresser may just do what you want and your friends have advised, based on these ‘me too’ current trends. A good hairdresser, however, will explore with you why you want to change your style, ask about your life style, assess whether this new style will suit your hair type, face shape and dress style – and make recommendations accordingly, perhaps showing you alternative or similar styles in a magazine to help you imagine the ‘new you’ which is ‘so you’.
You may end up with something exactly like you had imagined. You may end up with something similar but totally your own take on that style, or you may end up with something significantly different. You will, though, end up with something that’s just ‘so you’ and you will simply love it.
Similarly, when you come to launch a company or a product, you may go to an agency, your internal marketing expert, or even a friend with a clear idea of what you want, maybe with examples of other businesses’ logos, websites and other promotional literature as a brief.
A good corporate communications professional will not just accept your brief at face value. They’ll want the best for you because their reputation, as well as your own, depends on it. They’ll do the research. Who are your target audience and what do they find appealing? What are other companies and products in your sector doing? What were they doing last year? What might they be doing next year? What’s stale? What’s fresh? And, crucially, in the same way as a hairdresser can refer to all their other clients like and unlike you, a good communication professional can share with you what your organisation or product can borrow from sectors of which they have knowledge.
It’s not just about who your customers are though, it’s about who you are too. So, a good corporate communications professional will spend time getting to know you. In the same way that a good hairdresser will ask about your lifestyle and how you want to be perceived (e.g. trendy, quirky, sophisticated, classic or retro), a good corporate communications professional will explore with you your corporate values, your short, medium and long-term plans and the legacy you want to build (Put bluntly, what you want people to say about you when you’re gone).
They’ll then come up with recommendations tailored to achieve all of your objectives that are very likely to suit you and be totally original – ‘so you’. And, should you agree to these recommendations, they’ll implement them.
Maintaining your hair style is much like keeping your corporate communications up to date.
Let’s go back to the hairdresser’s or barber’s chair. Having found the exact style that is ‘so you’, do you ignore it and just go back once people start to tell you you’re looking a bit shabby, or it’s become so long you can’t see? Or do you go back every four to six weeks, depending on the style, to maintain it?
The choice is yours and, as with all choices, there are consequences. I won’t patronise you by spelling out the consequences of not staying on top of your corporate communications. I can’t resist pointing out though, that in this new era of social media, if you don’t take care of your comms, it’ll be your customers that will be in charge of how you are perceived – and disgruntled customers are usually much louder than happy ones. That’s just human nature, I’m afraid.
Restyling your hair – through choice or necessity – is much like a corporate rebranding.
If you do leave your ‘so me’ hairstyle for so long that you become unrecognisable, you have the choice to go back to the style that was ‘so you’ … or you may think: ‘Hey, let’s use this as an opportunity to try something new’. Or you may not know what to do, in which case you’ll probably go back to the good hairdresser, or to another one recommended by someone who’s haircut you’ve just admired.
This hairdresser, if good, will go back to basics and consult with you about why you had the old style in the first place, why you let it get out of hand: Was it that you could not manage it, so need something different? Or is it that you’ve moved on and feel the style no longer suits who you are? They may even advise you that either fashion, your hair condition or your face (harsh, I know, but time can be cruel) has moved on and that style is either no longer possible … or no longer right for you.
Even if you haven’t let your hairstyle get out of hand, a good hairdresser will advise you when it’s time for a change. And depending on the change required, they can help to evolve the ‘new you’ (we all know people who seemed to grow their hair from short to long without you ever noticing they were growing it) or just do it – a new style, there and then.
I won’t patronise you by transferring the analogy to the world of corporate communications. Most of you know what a rebrand is – and that you can take either an evolutionary or revolutionary approach to it. If not, call or email us and we’ll be more than happy to explain.
So what can we learn from the analogy?
I think the main take out is this: the expertise, experience and external viewpoint of professionals (whether in haircare or corporate communication) are more likely to enable you to become ‘so you’ rather than just another ‘me too’, and to free up your time so you can become even more ‘so you’.
Like hairdressers, corporate communication professionals bring expertise and experience. If you choose an external professional, they bring an external viewpoint too, one that can complement your in-house expertise to ensure the best of everything.
In the same way that you do not need to know how your hairdresser is achieving your agreed-upon, you don’t need to know how a corporate communication professional is implementing your plan. At the hairdresser’s, you can just enjoy sitting still for 40 minutes, drinking your chosen brew (dreaming up blog posts). In the workplace, if you have a professional communicator on the job, once you’ve agreed the plan, your mind and time are freed up to focus on what you’re best at so you and your organisation, brand or product can all become the best you can possibly be.
Ready to become ‘So You’?
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By Faye Holland