Dogs are Colorblind, Executives Are Busy - Communicating Effectively to Stakeholders

Are you communicating to your stakeholders the way you should be, to ensure they know what they need to know? Doing so is critical in taking your innovation to market. Here are two stories that illustrate why it matters: 63964_10150099790541756_4217314_nMy husband and I recently moved from our apartment into a home with a giant backyard covered in lush green ivy. Our dogs are in heaven. Hugo, the playful one, is all about chasing his favorite toy, a bright red bouncy bear named “Bear.”

I’ve heard before that dogs are colorblind, but it didn’t really register until I started tossing Bear in the yard, and noticing that when it bounced into the green ivy, Hugo couldn’t find it. Bright red Bear stood out so obviously to me, but Hugo would scan it from inches away and still miss it.

I Googled dogs and colorblind, and confirmed that indeed dogs see a much more limited color spectrum than humans, and cannot distinguish red from green the way humans can. Yellow and Blue do stand out for dogs from other colors. So why is Bear red?

It’s because red stands out most for humans.  Humans buy dog toys, not dogs! But humans will also only buy a red dog toy once. Bear was the last red toy we bought; now we look for yellow and blue ones.

Now, consider a team of PR leaders I know, working for a C-level executive who was dissatisfied with the amount of earned media coverage he was seeing, and hired consultants to turn the situation around.  The PR team was perplexed; they had been doing significant good work garnering global media attention, and they had been sending him their coverage updates by email weekly like clockwork. What wasn’t he seeing?

They were throwing a red bear into a patch of green ivy for a colorblind dog.

When under the guidance of the CEO’s hired consultant the PR team shifted its reporting to be more brief, more visual, more selective, grouped by key message theme, and delivered in person rather than by email, the executive said he was seeing a lot more momentum from the group. Their work hadn’t changed. The way they communicated to their intended audience had.

To a savvy dog owner and loyal dog toy buyer, yellow and blue matter. To an employee who wants an executive to be informed and a communicator to executives? What matters is what the executive wants to see, how they want to see it, and how often.

Do your stakeholder communications meet the goal? Or is it time to ask some smart questions?

PS, The omniscient master question answerer Cecil Adams wrote a great “The Straight Dope” column on cats’ and dogs’ colorblindness. Worth a read, for the omnicurious.