When It Comes To Communicating, You Gotta Keep Pumping

Posted: April 29, 2016

“Well, looks like your dad is on another kick.” I’m not sure how many times my wife said that to the kids as they were growing up, but enough for them to recognize what a “kick” looked like. This sudden and deep interest in the “subject of the day” would often manifest itself in a purchase that may seem indulgent looking back, but was perfectly justifiable — in my head — at the time. The geocaching equipment (where are we?). The yellow canoe (it was on sale). The fiddle (has anyone seen the cat lately?).

When I get on a kick, I’m all in. But like so many of you, my memories (and closets) are filled with the leftovers of projects I jumped on with great enthusiasm, only to lose interest when the next new thing came along.

Is that how communications works at your company? Do you try one approach a while, then jump to something else after just a few weeks or months? Sometimes this is not a matter of losing interest or becoming distracted, but more about getting discouraged. If you don’t see results quickly (just imagine my fiddle-playing), are you ready to declare this whole communicating kick a failure and go back to the status quo?

Communicating is a long-term game. Your tactics center around short-term activity, but you must remind yourself that you are in it for the long haul. Why? Because you aren’t just passing along information; you are educating your customers. You are informing them. You are engaging them. And that takes time.

(The author keeps an old pump on his porch to remind him of the power of Zig Ziglar’s story.)

Every communicator needs a photo of an old cast iron water pump somewhere in their office to remind them of a story from the late, great Zig Ziglar. If you haven’t heard it, search for “Zig Ziglar prime the pump” on YouTube and get ready for some motivation.

In summary, Ziglar tells the story of two old friends, Bernard and Jimmy, who were driving along a country road on a hot South Alabama summer day. Thirsty, they stopped at an abandoned farm house and found the well pump. Bernard grabbed the handle and began to pump. After priming the pump and still having no luck getting water to the surface, Bernard gave up. “Don’t stop, Bernard,” Jimmy yelled, grabbing the handle and continuing to pump. “If you stop now, the water will go back down … and then you’re gonna have to start all over!”

And that is the story of communications. So many times, we send out a press release and say, “Well, we have communicated,” then become discouraged when our customers don’t flock to our new offering. We launch a social media program, then give up three months later when our likes haven’t hit 1,000. We start a new publication, then have no defense when management asks us how much direct sales we can attribute to it after only three issues.

Ziglar’s pump has much to teach us here. Consider this:

Pumping is hard work.

Yes, getting that cold, clear water from that deep well takes a lot of effort. When you begin to build your communications program, expect that. Know there will be a lot of effort required up front, and plan for it.

Results take time.

Like old Bernard behind that farm house, pumping the handle up and down under a hot South Alabama sun, your communications efforts will sometimes feel like an exercise in futility. You often can’t see the water that is slowly climbing the pipe several feet below the surface.

The effort pays off.

Zig said it best: “If you will pump long enough, hard enough and enthusiastically enough, sooner or later the effort will bring forth the reward.” And when that water starts flowing, guess what? Maintaining the flow doesn’t take near the same level of work required to get the water to the surface. You just have to keep slowly and steadily pumping that arm.

So go ahead and try new things by adding the latest kick to your overall communications program. Just don’t let it distract you from your overall goal. Keep your hand on the handle and know that, to succeed as a communicator, you gotta keep pumping.

Stephen V. Smith is President/CEO of WordSouth — A Content Marketing Company, serving electric and telecommunications providers since 1996. Stephen can be reached at ssmith@wordsouth.com.