Two-Step Your Communication
By Robert F. Abbott
Ever use someone else to get your message out?
For example, big, multi-location companies sometimes make important announcements through local plant or office managers, rather than at head office. Another example: advocacy groups that ask their members to individually write or call politicians.
Both examples illustrate what's called a two-step communication strategy - getting extra mileage out of communication by selectively using other people to pass on messages.
It's so common we often don't think of it as a distinct strategy. But, it is, and offers many benefits, including: borrowed legitimacy, extended networks, speedy distribution, and unofficial status. Let's review those benefits in more detail, and as we do so, ask yourself how you could apply them.
Borrowed legitimacy: The example of the advocacy group illustrates how you can use third parties (in this case individual voters/members) to give greater credence to a message.
It also explains the testimonials you see and hear in advertising. And, book publishers commonly use several forms of two-step communication, including testimonials, prefaces by well-known or well-respected persons, and book reviews.
In your workplace, some people probably have more influence than others. If you send out a message to the people with influence and ask them to pass it on to others in the organization, the message may carry more weight.
If you're a sales person, you know the value of referrals. Again, this applies the two-step process to borrow legitimacy.
Extended networks: The two-step process can extend personal reach. It's like an old-boys' network that allows us to greatly expand the number of people we 'know'.
Some publishers of free electronic newsletters ask subscribers to pass on copies to friends and colleagues. It's a way for publishers to reach potential subscribers, with an implied or explicit endorsement.
Speed of distribution: Some messages can't be sent out in mass, they need to be delivered individually and personally, but still need to go out quickly. The two-step process can do that.
For example, some associations use phoning trees. Simply sending written notices of meetings may not be enough to get a good turnout. So, one person phones three other members, and those members each phone three other members and so on. If everyone cooperates, phone trees are very effective (in my experience, though, 'if' is the key word here).
Unofficial status: Sometimes, organizations use what politicians call trial balloons, which is to say, they want reaction to an initiative before officially announcing it.
For example, a politician might test the feasibility of an idea by leaking it to the media. If a news story refers to 'unnamed sources,' you may be seeing the two-step strategy at work. It allows the politician to get a reading on the public's mood without making a commitment.
In summary, the two-step process refers to the idea of using third parties to pass on important messages. Conscious, creative use of the process can extend your reach and give your message more impact. That makes it a useful addition to your communication toolbox.