The First Rule of Engagement

the first rule of engagementToday in this time of information overload, as multiple media sources and their sponsors compete for our attention, we hear much more emphasis placed on engagement. But what exactly does that word mean? According to Merriam-Webster, which of course offers many definitions, the one that applies to our plight is “…emotionally connected and involved.” And I think it is safe to say that the key word here is emotionally.

Indeed, this is nothing new. But as marketers, we live in a changing age of engagement, our constant challenge is to compete for the engagement of our prospects. To this end, engagement is not possible without some kind of emotional connection. And as more and more content floods the landscape, the capacity for a sincere emotional connection will continue to be a key factor in separating what works and what doesn’t. Sincerity is important here…because most people know when they are being played.

During my ten-plus years’ work as a creative director working on capital fund-raising campaigns, I learned that short, compelling themes and messages were key to prospect engagement (in this case, potential donors to nonprofits). In fact, it is one of the reasons why I became such a big fan of video–for no other communication medium had the power to emotionally capture the attention of a prospect. Further, this was back in the mid 90s–before we had the capacity to edit broadcast quality productions on desktop systems and then distribute them instantly across the globe via YouTube or any other video channel.

So how do you effectively engage your desired audience? More specifically, how do you emotionally capture their attention–and hold it?

Let’s face it: a cute kitten video that goes viral online might make the cut for capturing one’s  attention with an emotional appeal, but it’s value is limited to short-term entertainment. Nothing more.

You emotionally connect with others often by offering an emotional connection first. This may be through sharing stories that emphasize the outcomes you help create, and how those outcomes impacted the lives of other customers and clients.

You can also engage others by being willing to share a little bit of your own story–perhaps even challenges that you faced, and still must deal with from time to time. Odds are, your prospect can relate–and often will.

Think about this: when someone is emotionally involved, they (often unknowingly) make themselves vulnerable. They let down their guard.

You must be willing to do the same…and do it first. This requires trust. Are you prepared?

In my next post, I share a great example of how a colleague did just this, and closed! And it was not by creating a compelling video or utilizing any other high-tech approach. Rather, he had a compelling, emotional message to convey, and when he acted from the heart, he succeeded.

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