Clear communication:
The case of the $150 box of cookies

Written by: Tim McCleary, Chief Experience Officer

Recently, my wife and I passed a group of energetic young girls who had set up an elaborate display of Girl Scout cookies outside of a large store. Their strategy was to intercept the exiting shoppers and entice them to make a purchase.

The girls buzzed about their table, attempting to make eye contact with would-be buyers. One eager girl approached us and confidently said, “Make a purchase of $150 and we’ll give you a free box of cookies!” We politely smiled and told her our freezer was already overflowing with one of our favorites from a purchase we had made a week ago.

Entering the store chuckling, I turned to my wife and said, “$150 worth of cookies earns you a free box? That’s a lot of cookies – and an odd offer.”

After shopping, we passed the girls again. This time, the Mom of one of the girls was on the sidewalk. I stopped and said, “That’s quite a sales pitch they’re making – $150 worth of cookies for a free box!”

The Mom laughed and said, “No, they meant that if you spend $150 inside the store, we’ll give you a free box of Girl Scout cookies.” She quickly followed with, “Looks like we have to coach them a bit more on communicating the offer!”

I’m sure to that young girl, her offer was as clear as could be. However, that’s not how we received her message. And while this case of miscommunication is a humorous one, in business this could quickly send a well-planned program off the rails.

How clear are the communications you’re producing for your change programs? What might seem crystal clear to you may not be received by your audience in the way you intend. Typically, like our Girl Scout, this is because of how close you are to the message.

I learned a valuable lesson while managing the global re-branding of GE. You must keep up a clear and consistent drumbeat while moving through change – because there will always be someone who hasn’t yet heard your message. And if you can get that person to hear it as you intend, that’s worth a warehouse full of Thin Mints.

Thanks for being involved today.

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