In the latest of his blogs on community Jonathan Norman compares communication to being a drummer.
There is no secret formula when it comes to effective communication, whether that be with a community, a network or just your customers. The most important thing is planning and consistency.
Think of it like playing the drums …
The Bass Drum
The regular, slow, ‘thump thump’ of the Bass Drum is provided by the communications – articles, blog posts, videos – that tell the big picture story. Plan what you are going to say about your organization, what you do or the subject, profession or discipline for which you are the experts across a 12-month period.
Bass Drumbeats tend to be the bigger, more complex and more thoughtful pieces; something for people to get their teeth into and you will only want perhaps one or two of these per month. Together each of the posts should build into a story or a complete picture; make your posts consistent in terms of style, length and the frequency with which you post them. You want to build a rhythm and expectation amongst your readers.
I create a 15 minute Masterclass video interview each month for the Major Projects Knowledge Hub. Each of the videos, involving an external expert on knowledge management and learning, adds a piece to the overall picture and collectively they make a tapestry of content on a complex and elusive subject.
Bass Drum posts are a great place to involve third party experts – either to guest write or for an interview, which is also a good way of encouraging interest amongst your network as well as having a ready platform (the expert’s own network) for pushing your message out to new people.
The Side Drum
The Side Drum brings a faster and more insistent rhythm to the band. Frequency and regularity are the watchwords here. If you post a Bass Drumbeat once a month, then introduce your Side Drumbeats once or twice a week. Be careful not to overdo it; remember, you’ve got to keep the whole thing going. Better to start with one a week and then add a second, if and when you have the time and content.
The Side Drumbeat allows you to explore smaller, discrete themes. Currently in the Major Projects Knowledge Hub Facebook Group, my Side Drumbeat posts are: Mondays – Send for a Friend (an invitation, posed in a variety of simple ways to encourage group members to solicit other colleagues to join the group); Wednesdays – Book of the Week (I highlight a book that I think will be of interest and solicit other group members to post their own recommendations too); and Fridays – Friday Management Models (a series of posts exploring management models for project managers).
Side Drumbeat posts can also be a place to recruit guests to take over the drumsticks for a while. The other noteworthy point about Side Drumbeats is that, whilst you need to keep them regular, you should also mix them up. Change the theme or the topic every four to eight weeks. People get bored and you will run out of subject matter for a given theme. Try asking your network for suggestions for Side Drumbeat themes and, if you find a very rich theme, don’t worry that you can’t cover everything all in one cycle. You can repeat a successful theme later in the year.
The Cymbal is the percussion instrument that, in the content of communication, doesn’t follow or create a regular beat. Your Cymbal communications are opportunistic and ‘as and when’. Write an article or blog post, share a link when something comes along that is of interest to the group. This might be an external event, a new piece of legislation, a newsworthy event.
Cymbals are a law unto themselves – it could be a quick Tweet or a full-blown article or video – these are the communications you create on the fly. That doesn’t mean there is no planning at all to your Cymbal piece but in this case, the planning involves choosing and following the feeds, news sites or other sources of information that will create the catalyst for your communication.
Rhythm and muscle memory
I don’t play the drums (so apologies if my post has made some crass musical errors) but I suspect that a part of the skill of playing a drum set must come from muscle memory. Building the movements into your playing so that they become unconscious. You should be able to achieve that with your own Drum Beats.
Certainly the rhythm of the drums is infectious for your audience. It builds into something that has meaning (perhaps the story arc of your Base Drum) and rhythm, which encourages expectation.
But it also allows you to build a rhythm for your own activities. The regular schedule will soon become a matter of habit, which will make the whole process much easier to sustain.
There is some science to this but the exact nature of the rhythm should be your own and don’t be afraid to go wild and have a manic riff on the drums from time to time, if there’s an immediate topic that needs all your attention and demands more than just the Cymbal to do it justice