The Goldilocks Zone of Communication

by Christian D. Malesic, MBA, CAE, CMP, IOM

We all get too much. Too many emails. Too much junk mail. Too many texts. Too much spam on our favorite social media feed. And, too many ads everywhere we look. In fact, the noise is at such a peak that advertisements, marketing, and propaganda are often confused with the communication messaging we really want to hear, see, and read. So, when we are on the other side, as the one sending the message for our company, association, or chamber, how do we get our communication through the gauntlet of piled high pandering to reach the clients, members, and, maybe even, perspective customers that really want to hear from us?
Too Much
The most oft-used approach by uniformed and undereducated communicators is to send more. “Make sure it gets through” is their battle cry. You can almost picture them donning their battle armor as they prepare to storm the castle that is your inner-sanctuary of peace to force you to read their message. They would argue that the science of the last hundred years has changed. It is no longer the case, they abruptly proclaim, that a receiver needs seven touches for marketing to have a real effect. Nor does it hold that messages from trusted, reliable, and liked sources are even less than seven, they loudly boast. The noise-factor, they boldly assert, has caused touches to rise to 10, or 14, or 22. You might rightfully question their heresies, asking: Why not 100? Or, 999?
‘Too much’, as they quickly learn, and you intuitively know by considering your own patterns, becomes zero as they go from trusted source and favorite organization to spam in the receiver’s eye. The result? Unsubscribe. Block. Filter. Disconnect. Once that happens, not only does the client not receive the program of the day we were hocking, but they receive nothing. We lose touch. We lose trust. We lose them. Certainly, we can use technology to separate our communications into various lists; so, when they unsubscribe from one, they still receive another. Thus, if they unsub from the newsletter, they still get the invoice. Or, when they cancel the magazine, they still get the program or product announcement. Like gasoline, this is good to make an engine go when used properly but disastrous when thrown on a burning fire. Clearly, ‘too much’ is a fail.

Too Little
The antithesis must then be true, right? The ‘too little’ crowd timidly whispers: we shall send them less. “Less is better” they murmur amongst themselves. They demurely conjecture that one, two, or even, three touches (when they are less nervous of a particular message) over a several-month period is the perfect fit. But, this approach swings the pendulum too far the other way, does it not? The infrequency of communication gets trapped in the noise, buried under the day-to-day trappings of our receiver’s normal life. It’s not that the receiver doesn’t want to hear or read from us. They just honestly don’t get it. Or, they get it weeks or months later as they spring clean their email box or junk pile. No, the bashful, milquetoast purveyors of the ‘too little’ heresy are also wrong. The science of touches still plays here, too. Thus, ‘too little’ is also a fail.

The Goldilocks Zone
There is a Goldilocks Zone of Communication. What is too much? Or, too little? Is an event promotion or product announcement as important as a dues or sales invoice? A webinar? Which holds more weight: a new regional economic data report or the passing of an influential member? If we can’t rank the importance of communication, then all communication has equal weight – that of noise. Junk. Spam. Therefore, as we analyze all of the communications coming from our organization, the first step in finding the Goldilocks Zone is prioritizing our messages. Some must clearly get more touches and others less; it is that simple.

Next is frequency. Once messages are prioritized, they are ranked. Again, reviewing the organization’s communication plan holistically, we must determine the perfect number of communications per period per ranking. Think of it this way, how many emails do you want to receive per period from your favorite organization? How, about from one that you like, you are a fan, but not a super fanboy or fangirl? How about one in which you have a passive interest? What is the perfect number of email messages that keeps YOU interested without inundating you and causing you to unsubscribe? Five a day? Three per week? One a week? The research has shown the answer is closer to one a week for the passive interests and one a day for the super fans. The problem is, which one is your organization to each individual client? That’s where the science ends and the art begins. You need to plan your work then work your plan. Start smaller with less, then increase to more if the data drives you that way. Study your findings. Analyze your results. Apply your new theory, then test. Do so ever-so-carefully and methodically, however. After all, these are your clients, the lifeblood of your business.

So, the Goldilocks Zone of Communication is science-based; but, the delicate science of communications is an art as well. Assuming your message is clear, concise, and worthy of receipt… Assuming your product or service is of value… Assuming your organization is pure, ethical, and relevant… Then, zoning in on the Goldilocks Zone for your base may very well be the most important thing you can do for your organization today.

If you found this article insightful and useful, you may similarly appreciate the other three articles from this four-part series on communications: Do It Their Way: Connecting with Clients & Members, Anatomy of a Communication Message, and Break Through the Noise with Your Communication.

Christian D. Malesic, MBA, CAE, CMP, IOM provides insight on nonprofit management, executive decision-making, business operations, personal finance, marketing, construction issues, and occasionally, on political philosophy / history. To see more by Christian, visit or to receive notice of the newest articles written by Christian, follow him on Parler @CDMalesic or on Twitter @CDMalesic.

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