“First of all," he said, "if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you'll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view […] until you climb into his skin and walk around in it."
This quote from To Kill a Mockingbird where Atticus Finch is giving his daughter a life lesson in compassion and empathy can be applied to many aspects of life. Understanding another person’s perspective or ‘what makes them tick’ can help cement a good relationship with that person.
Stepping a little further into this ideology we can develop the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) factor for the basis of a raft of marketing, sales and communications. If you are selling a product or service then it is likely to be more effective if you understand your prospective client or customer’s need and wants are.
Generally speaking, aligning benefits of your products and services with someone’s needs and wants makes them more saleable. Of course, there are other factors such as price and competition in the market with alternative offerings.
Communication planning should also consider the WIIFM factor and it needs to be recognised that different stakeholders may have differing needs and wants. However, when communicating to differing stakeholder groups, be mindful that there are often interrelationships across those groups. Mapping out stakeholders and understanding their respective WIIFM factor, will help craft your key messages and also assist in deciding the most appropriate and effective communication medium to use.
This methodology is particularly effective in crisis or issue management where you are communicating with affected stakeholder groups and wanting positive acceptance of your key messages.
Some years ago a State government owned utility started to rationalise the number of its regional offices with some very unfavourable results and community outcry in the north of the State. When it came time to close an office in the south of the State, a communication plan that identified all stakeholders (customers, local council, local members of parliament, local banks, neighbouring stores, local media and employees) was put into place and which sold the benefits of convenience including new ways for customers to pay and interact with the utility more effectively. The result was a positive one including positive front page media; a great outcome especially considering the utility office had been a part of the local community for over 65 years.
In summary, respect the people you are communicating with, find the common ground, understand their needs and wants – don’t underestimate the importance of the WIIFM factor.