To be a success in the 20th century was to be a star. Whether a movie star, a rock star, or an NBA All Star, your job was to shine brightly and be worshiped by “the little people” below you. Feedback from the masses was next to impossible and that was OK by you.
Many stellar Fortune 500 corporations operated in much the same way, preferring target demographic marketing over actually engaging with their customers.
Then the Internet—which abhors one-way communication—snuffed out many of the 20th century stars and gave birth to a new celestial model of success: the quasar.
Unlike a star, which only radiates, a quasar has an enormous black hole at its core that sucks matter and energy in while shining light out--more light, in fact, than any star in the universe. This two-way flow of energy is the foundation of successful communication in the Interactive Age. Dictatorial monologues are out; thoughtful and empathetic dialogues are in.
As it happens, “QuASAR” is also an acronym for the five-step process that can teach you how to become a thoughtful and empathetic communicator yourself. QuASAR stands for Quest, Audience, Stories, Action, and Results.
Quest—Most meaningful communication begins with a quest. Unlike a mission—which is a directive from an external source, usually a framed piece of paper nailed to the break room wall—a quest is driven by a passion that comes from within to achieve a purpose that you hold dear. By discovering your quest, you will attract people who share your goal and your passion.
Audience—Until very recently, an audience’s primary function was to serve as a barometer of success. They were counted, not consulted. Today, however, the audience you attract will actually give you invaluable insight and helpful advice as you share stories during—and about—your mutual quest. You cannot overstate the importance of your audience. They are no longer passive observers of your communication “campaigns.” They are your new partners and active participants in your quest.
Stories—Press releases, official statements, and talking points don’t initiate conversations; they kill them. To engage in a dialogue you need to share stories. In fact, now that you’re on a quest with new friends who share your objective, it would be almost impossible not to.
Action—Woody Allen famously said “80% of success is showing up.” In the Interactive Age, it’s closer to 100%. You need to take the time and energy you’re spending on quarterly magazines, monthly newsletters, and staged press events and spend it on developing organic, ongoing dialogues with your audiences. As Jay Baer, best-selling author of The Now Revolution, said, “Focus on how to be social, not on how to do social.”
Results—Success used to be measured by the number of clips your press release generated. But that metric (and most press releases) are far less important in the Interactive Age. Successful communication isn’t measured in “hits,” it's measured by your audience's reaction.
Take Molly Katchpole. Ms. Katchpole was a part-time nanny in 2012 when she decided that she didn’t want to pay Bank of America $5 every month just to use her debit card. So she started an online petition opposing the surcharge that generated more than 200,000 signatures in one week. It’s a safe bet that BofA’s media team reached tens of millions of people that week, but that wasn’t enough to keep bank CEO Brian Moynihan from crying “Uncle” and dropping the $5 fee.
Interaction is the currency of the Interactive Age. After years of talking at your targeted audience, you and countless others are going to have to adjust to talking with both your targeted audiences and with the many new people and communities you will meet as you venture on your quest.
It will be difficult, but it’s not impossible. If Daniel Pink can learn how to draw a passable self-portrait by using his right brain, you can learn how to mechanize the magic of meaningful and effective communication through the QuASAR process.