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To Communicate Effectively, Begin With The Customer's Frame Of Reference

Two speakers, two topics, a different city than my own and a completely different type of culture than I have grown used to.

But their ideas were durable and resonant. They applied to my job, my program, my world.

More than that: The program I represent effectively answers some of the questions they raised. It offers a method of closing gaps in the system, gaps that they dwelled upon at length.

I found myself talking, not a lot but some. Explaining the connections between me and this place, this time.

And as I talked, I realized that the language I had available to me was applicable to my own frame of reference, that is to say - the world of science, the culture of Washington.

But these were people not of my world. I needed to get through to them.

And so I listened to the words that THEY used, and thought: There is a piece missing here. I'm doing things backwards.

Rather than explaining my world in my words, I need to explain their world to them using my frame of reference.

It was like somebody flipped on a gigantic light switch.

I further realized that it was not my job to push and sustain an outreach program of my own.

Rather, it is to ride the wave of momentum that ALREADY EXISTS out there. There is a huge natural flow of interest in disruptive innovation, in "Made In America," in bringing jobs home.

It isn't my job to think of new themes.

It is my job to LOOK AT WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING ALREADY. Speak to that, fold in with that, ride the wave of that.

In short, to surf.

And then I realized the very big thing, the thing that has been eluding me all along, nagging at me, tugging at my brain and I haven't had words for it.

The meaning of "social" is not, as many think, "a range of tools associated with interactive, self-powered digital communication."

Well, maybe it's partly that. But that's not all of it. That's just the means.

"Social" is really about a different paradigm for marketing.

Instead of building desire where none existed before - instead of creating false need - it's about clueing in to the needs that people are articulating ALL THE TIME.

Really looking at them and paying attention to that.

And it's not about "owning" a particular and separate space from all your competitors.

Rather it's about JOINING and RISING ABOVE the competitive set so that you become a trusted part of the community, a wanted purveyor of things, services and ideas.

It was an eye-opening experience to go to that event yesterday. My Tweets went through the roof.

And I think my brain exploded along with them.

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All opinions are my own and do not represent those of my agency or the federal government as a whole.

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