A Publication of WTVP

William Shakespeare asked, "Tell me where is fancy bred. In the heart or in the head?"

Well, Bill, the answer to your question is actually "both." The key to effective communications, sales, negotiations, brand building, or any interaction between two or more people is delivering a message that connects with both the head and the heart.

The message should be relevant, intelligent and make sense to the audience. And while there are some cases where logic should dominate and others where emotion is more appropriate, the most effective messages of all are those in which the two work in harmony.

Reaching people and inspiring them to action is what effective business communications is all about. And it all starts with building trust and mind-melding with the audience, learning as much about them as possible. What do you offer that they need? How are you different or better than others? How has this message been communicated to them before? How can you help them succeed? What do they care about? Once you have the answers, it’s much easier to express a message clearly and creatively.

Determining whether a message should be crafted to lead with the head or the heart is part science and part instinct. If you’re trying to sell a product or service that is not unique to the marketplace, focusing on its emotional benefit may be the most compelling point of difference—making it much more likely to stand out. On the other hand, if you have something the competition can’t match, you should make the difference the message using facts and logic. No matter which is dominant, both head and heart need to be present to some degree.

Two ad campaigns—both automobile related—illustrate this balancing act between logic and emotion. For decades, Volvo cars have proven in tests to be some of the safest, most collision-capable cars in the world. And that’s the message the Swedish automaker has consistently used in all of its marketing communications. Forget the fact that Volvos are some of the boxiest and most unexciting cars on the road. Forget their relatively high price tags. All we know is that Volvos are safe. Years of TV commercials and print ads showing test-crash results and government reports have made a connection with our logical side. We’ve then made an emotional connection with the underlying message of nothing less than a car this safe will do for our family. Mission complete: the head and heart have been connected.

The leadership story Michelin Tire Company wants to tell is pretty much the same as Volvo’s. Michelin tires have been proven to be some of the safest and longest-lasting you can buy. But instead of presenting this message in a straightforward and logical fashion (which is easy to do with a subject as mundane as tires), Michelin’s marketing approach centers on cute images of babies sitting in tires. Lots of babies. Lots of tires. Lots of messages with one thought-provoking benefit incorporated into each: "Because so much is riding on your tires." How could anyone argue with that? It’s the perfect blend of emotion and logic.

But what about more typical, everyday communications? How do we know when it’s more appropriate to lead with the head or with the heart? A few examples. Fundraising materials for a charitable organization are usually more successful by leading with an emotional appeal, even though the money it receives serves a very real and logical purpose. Health care marketing is much the same way—it’s always better to focus on people than technology. But when it comes to things like annual reports or management meetings, a more direct and straightforward approach—laced with human-interest elements—is often the most effective way to communicate.

People want more than just the facts. They want to know how the information relates to them, why they should care, why they should take action. Even internal communications, including e-mail and memos, need to have an intellectual and emotional component. In other words, talk to people in a way that means something to them—while keeping it simple, clear and concise.

It brings to mind an old comparison, the one about the two hitchhikers. One hitchhiker stood by the side of the road with a sign that read: "To Cleveland." The other, standing not far away with his thumb out, had his own sign: "To Mom’s for Christmas." Guess who was picked up first. IBI