Principles of Credible Communication

Michael Maslansky - Principles of credible communicationWhy does so much good research get underutilized, misinterpreted, or simply ignored? At MSI’s November 2012 Trustees Meeting, Michael Maslansky, CEO, maslansky + partners, offered a new set of “4Ps” for marketers. Here is an edited version of his presentation.

“Have you ever come up with a great insight or research finding that you feel really needs to be heard—and yet it is ignored or contradicted by others inside your organization? How can you deliver that message more effectively? The stakes are high. It impacts your budget, your influence, and whether or not you can actually do what you need to do inside the organization.

If we want to be successful in engaging our executives, we have to understand where they’re coming from. What is it that they need to get out of a presentation? There are many 100-page decks that I’ve seen—some that I’ve created—where at the end of the hundred pages, there is no clear answer as to whether or not we’ve addressed the needs of our internal clients.

New 4Ps for researchers

Four principles are critical to building trust and communicating effectively. They are, conveniently, 4Ps.

The first is about being personal. If we understand where [our listeners] are coming from, we can make sure that we address their needs.

The second is about being plainspoken. It’s critically important to translate our research into language that our executives understand. They are steeped in the business, and they’re very smart, but they may not know all the research acronyms. They may not know what margin of error means, or statistical significance, or they may just not understand a research-driven perspective.

By plausible I mean credible. Don’t oversell what your research is meant to deliver. It won’t be perceived as plausible by your clients.

And the last, and very important, principle is being provocative. We have a responsibility to deliver a strong perspective, as opposed to 100 pages of data and a bunch of findings. We need to deliver a perspective on what the data means, how it influences the organization and arguably, what to do with it.

How do we simplify the complex? How do we make it more straightforward? How do we take the data and turn it into a narrative? This is very hard to do but critically important, because your audience is not going to walk out of the room with 100 pages of data memorized. They are probably going to take away three things. So, what three things can we give them? If I can’t explain it simply, then I need to do more work on it. [You want people to] say, ‘Can you come back and talk to my team? Because I want to make sure that my team hears about this. ’

Walking into the room for a presentation, I always feel like people are sitting with their arms crossed, and my goal is to try and uncross their arms during the course of the presentation. It is the same with our internal stakeholders. The more that we can focus on being personal, plainspoken, plausible, and provocative, the more effective we are going to be in taking the great work that we do and making sure that it gets adopted by the organization. ”

Related links

Conference presentation

Using the Language of Trust to Engage Internal Stakeholders
Michael Maslansky (2012) 


The Social Capital of the Top Marketing Team, Inter-firm Market Learning Capability, and Business Performance: A Test of a Mediating Model
Kwaku Atuahene-Gima (2002)

The Paradox of Low Quality and High Use: How Researcher Trust Impacts Market Research Outcomes
Christine Moorman and Jon R. Austin (1995)

Relationships Between Providers and Users of Market Research: The Role of Personal Trust
Christine Moorman, Rohit Deshpande, and Gerald Zaltman (1993)


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