This summer provides me an excellent and exciting opportunity: the chance to get back in the swing of things with my sometime band The Sages. Founded way back in 2008- at the behest of my best friend, go-to drummer, and roommate Mack- the Sages have brought the south side of Indianapolis (and the University of Indianapolis in particular) hours of enjoyable, original rock and roll and blues at a cheap rate. After some struggling with band line-up and focus we hit a stride about 6 months ago, but effectively disintegrated as everyone’s schedule got in the mix and we geared up for graduation. This was more than disconcerting.
Now, with the whole of us either in solid jobs or continuing education, the opportunity again arises to get together, promote our self-titled album, and maybe even write some new tunes to present to anyone who would like to gig us out. Our geographical location lends itself well to music venues, festivals, and private entertainment, so this new prospect is all the more exciting.
It was thinking on this topic that got me to this blog post. I was waxing nostalgically over the creation of our band, the brief success we enjoyed and all the things interacting so intimately on an executive level with equally intellectual heavy-weights has taught me about being an effective communicator. I’d like to fill you in on how being in a rock’n’roll band has instilled important, keystone principles of communication in me, and hopefully you can take them with you into your communication dealings.
1. Everyone Has (or Should Have) A Voice
This tip is less obvious than it seems on the surface. When working in an executive position that doubles as a creative position (i.e. the singer/songwriter of a band) it is easy to forget that not everyone you work with is going to like the ideas you put forth. I wrote a great many songs that I thought were masterpieces.
Turns out the guys thought completely the opposite, and it took me a while to recognize the need to include their viewpoints in composition. When I did, we were able to collaborate and produce great music; when I didn’t, my ideas often ended up in the scrap heap.
In communication it is important to include all the voices your client or company can provide. Use the opportunity to survey and get the views, excitement, and loyalty from your employees or your client’s employees. This info can prove a mighty and powerful tool when writing in the ‘voice’ of your organization. Be tasteful, but whenever possible use internal loyalty to fuel consumer loyalty. Even the guy who serves your morning coffee (and thus probably picks up on more things about your goings-on than you do) has a voice!
2. Establishing and Mastering Language Is Crucial
This one is a no-brainer and time tested. Without a basic understanding of the musical language, my band-mates and I would never have been able to stand on the same level of understanding needed to compose great material. If I couldn’t articulate the key changes in a work, or the way notes needed to be arranged and played in a rift to my guitar player, or if I couldn’t describe the rhythmic patterns in the groove I had in my mind to my drummer, nothing would ever get done!
The same holds true for communicating. It should be obvious, as it is inherent in the name of the discipline, but establishing a clear cut way of understanding your client or management is critical. If you can truly understand how to best explain your great idea for an event or the importance of social media platforming to your client, then you’ve found the true key.
Understanding one another’s needs should be the focal point of your preliminary communication efforts.
3. There Is Always Someone (or Something) to Appeal To
I have an understanding that this point may seem to live in the realm of the metaphysical, but I find it to be extremely important. During my tenure as the front man of a rock band there was one overriding thing I learned about communicating as a group of creatives: the MUSIC was all that mattered in the end. If what we were producing didn’t stand up to even one of our member’s musical standards, everything needed to be changed, without question. Out of loyalty to the art form we gladly obliged.
Following such a strict code of integrity ensured we only produced the highest caliber music.
The same should hold true to communication. Not only should you hold your work to the highest standards of production, you should ALWAYS appeal to the standards (and exceed the standards) of your client or management. Doing so will not only save your hide when it comes to reviews, but it ensures satisfaction and proves a valuable bargaining chip when asking for promotion or any other such consideration.
4. Never Forget About Your Audience
You’ll hear me say it time and again: we wouldn’t produce or play music unless we had someone to listen to it. Sitting around and applying the discipline inherent in musicality is great for one’s personal growth, and can provide satisfaction for a time, but let’s face it: entertainment is for the enjoyment of all. What other possible end-result could there be? Following this principle, we always made it a point to identify the psycho-graphics of our audiences, and set our line-ups accordingly.
Thus the age old adage: When producing communication tactics one must ALWAYS consider the public’s needs and interests. For and extreme example, one wouldn’t promote the gala opening of a body-building gym in a geriatrics magazine. Why waste your time pitching that way?
Taking the preliminary time to gauge your audience will always pay out.
5. Have Fun/ Love What You Do
If I hadn’t held on tightly to this tip, I would have lost my sanity in the endless hours of practice and perseverance that goes along with being in a rock and roll band. No matter how hard the going got, no matter how close to ruining friendships our time together came, no matter how often less than enthusiastic audiences faked a mercy applause, knowing that I was doing something I loved as dearly as life itself kept me producing quality work and working hard at it.
You would be hard-pressed to find a communication professional who told you they didn’t enjoy at least some great aspect of their job. Most will tell you the low pay, grueling hours, and struggle through the working rungs may be discouraging, but I’ve never heard a single one complain that they did any of this under true duress.
In the end, if you love communicating, the work you produce will show it, and those you work with will take notice.
I’m looking forward to the height of this summer for one reason alone: the chance to do something I love with people I love. Hopefully as communication professionals you feel this way the majority of the time you get up to go to work, and while doing it. It is my hope that I’ll end up in such a position myself, creating quality communication for deserving and exciting clientele in new and fascinating ways.
I’ll never forget the importance of these lessons in my professional work, and I plan to keep on striving to perfect their teachings. If my experience is any indicator of success, I hope my insights here can influence how you look at the art of communication, and maybe even prove useful to some of you!
“If you overload and overdrive a feeling, you can make it sound pretty rude.” -Jimmy Page