Changing the Conversation
Simplifying the Rules of Engagement

We live in an environment of hyper communication. It’s a natural reaction to respond when someone says something to you or about you, particularly in a public forum. Don’t, it’s a trap. As soon as you respond, you’ve acknowledged the source and validated the question or the accusation. Additionally, you’ve unwittingly extended the attention shelf life of the issue. While unproductive and sometimes risky, businesses are often drawn into public conversations that they don’t want to and shouldn’t have. Admittedly, it can be excruciating to bite your tongue, but declining invitations to unacceptable conversations comes with a unique opportunity to redirect the focus and change the conversation.

Here’s an abbreviated example:

I worked with a client that provided third party endoscopy equipment repair service with a small national footprint of labs. Their fixed cost service incorporated on-premise education programs for customers that were reducing incorrect equipment handling and extending equipment life cycles significantly. This led to decreased new scope purchases from original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). The two primary OEMs were displeased with the reduced sales and launched industry wide ad campaigns designed to cast doubt on our client’s professional capabilities. Despite having gladly ceded service work years prior, the OEMs wanted to reclaim equipment service relationships so they could sell more parts and more scopes.

What do you do when two international companies come at you with big resources and bad intentions? We simply declined to be a part of that conversation. Instead of responding defensively, we changed the conversation and redirected the focus to highlight exceptional value, transparent practices and positive outcomes. We used language and images that illustrated professional capability, FDA sanctioned qualifications and quiet confidence. The net result was we were able to transform an expensive media attack into a positive  opportunity.

Putting Into Practice
Putting this concept into action is pretty easy. First, if you’re feeling emotional, pretend you’re on fire - stop, drop and roll. Breath deep and ask these three questions:

  1. What is the real intent of the original complaint?

  2. Is this a reasonable conversation to have?

  3. Can I solve this in a way that reflects positively on our business?
If you’re not 100% sure that your response is the right thing to say and well timed, silence is golden. If you're unprepared or simply don't want to have a conversation, don’t.

Say less, communicate more.

Jody Kaufman   
Principal   |   Klēn Design