//Use Your Senses For Strong Communications
Use Your Senses For Strong Communications

Use Your Senses For Strong Communications

How do maximize your effectiveness in communications? By expanding your appeal through the senses. No, this is not a pheromone commercial. But, it is a time-tested way to help get messages through the sea of clutter.

In college, I was treated to the out-of-print text by C.C. Cunningham (I can’t remember the exact title), a University of Southern California professor who taught oral interpretation to the likes of Randy Sparks of the New Cristy Minstrels, and poets Robinson Jeffers and Rod McKewen. His approach was to cause readers and writers to emphasize the senses in their oral presentations of the written word and to write to the senses in their new lyrics. And, he identified more than the typical five senses: taste, touch, smell, hearing and visual. He added: kinaesthetic and kinetic.

His point? If you appeal to a sensory image/connection, you will automatically trigger memories (positive and negative) that automatically make it easier for you to communicate your point. Remember this when you write or present and you will jump-start your communications effort.

For example: tires screech (hearing) as you try to stop, pushing hard (kinesthetic) on the peddles, but not preventing sliding (kinetic) into that truck load of rotten herring (smell) which slid off (kinesthetic) the truck onto the highway. Do you smell this picture, while you feel the driver’s plight?

Applying this to regular public relations and marketing works this way. When planning a press conference or public information forum, you can utilize C.C. Cunnigham’s advice in several ways.

Plan for the visual experience first

When planning a press conference or public forum, think visually. Plan for television. Years ago, I learned that planning for television takes care of all the needs of any media—meaning the news media. What I didn’t realize is that the media can be any human being. Planning for television means that you have visual stimuli of all sorts so that the cameras have plenty to take away and use for the nightly news. Visual stimuli, however, is effective for everyone viewing the event. You end up with more effective communications for everyone involved. It’s the visual sense at its best.

For example, a recent press event around the repeal of the snack tax utilized actual examples foods that were taxed versus foods that were not taxed. A frozen apple pie was not taxed and baked apple pie was taxed. Not only did you have the visual sense but you had an olfactory sense of smell happening at the same time. Can you smell the baked apple pie.

When planning any activity think of the senses you can employ. Don’t force it, but, think about the appropriate senses that are involved and create the ways to underscore them. Particularly for complicated topics, the senses shed light and cause pictures of clarity to emerge.

Other examples which have worked:

Open houses on landfills

Goal: Showing off new landfill technology
Results: 800 people for hot dogs on a Saturday in the Fall
How: Food served on Frisbees. Recycling robot. Guided bus tours on landfill technology
Senses involved: Taste, smell, visual

Dedication of an historic building

Goal: Underscore the philanthropy of the donor
Results: Articles in major dailies, radio and television
How: Visual graphics, historic and new; review of philanthropist through history
Senses involved: Strong visuals

Final point

This need not be rocket science. The point is that when you employ more than one sense in your communications campaign, you improve your odds of reaching your audience. The more senses involved, the more effective you will be.


Originally published in the Kennebec Journal in 2008 as part of a monthly guest series on public relations and marketing.