Pencils Promote Drugs to School Kids: Communication Gone Wrong


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An anti-drug group in New York distributed free pencils to school kids with the anti-drug message,  ‘Too Cool To Do Drugs.’ It started out okay, but got worse and worse when the kids actually used the pencils.

As the pencils were worn down and sharpened, the message changed to:  ‘Cool To Do Drugs,’ and ‘Do Drugs.’ (excerpt from the book, ‘Duh! The Stupid History of the Human Race,’ by Bob Fenster.)

Okay, so the idea above seemed like a good one at the time but thinking through the communication tool and how it would be used seems to have taken a back seat. Just think about about little Johnny and Sally rushing home excited to tell their parents that it’s okay to do drugs because their schools says so. Can you say, Ouch?!

Although the anti-drug group had the best of intentions, the end result, the message communicated, probably did not win over the parents of that particular school or any school this anti-drug group passed out its pencils.

Winning over customers can be just as challenging. But don’t forget the need to win over your own employees. Employees are dependent on the business where they work to help them earn a living and continue to bring income home on a steady basis. But besides an employee’s job description, there is a lot left unsaid or not communicated that can cause more unnecessary chaos and stress throughout a company that is rarely even there in the first place.

If you are an owner of a business, there are some basic messages that each employee should understand. And if you and your upper management don’t effectively communicate this information to each employee, you can never hope to think that all employees know what you want for the business and how you want to get there AND what they are supposed to do to help you get where you want to go.

Mandatory Communication To Each Employee:

#1 What is the company’s goal AND how does this impact each employee?

#2 What is the company’s positioning statement AND what does this mean to each employee and his/her daily responsibilities?

#3 What role does each employee play in the overall ‘big picture?’

Most Forgotten Communication Needed From Management to Employees:

#4 When an employee is asked by a friend, potential client or local official where he/she works, the employee should be able to offer the name of the company and an agreed upon company wide ‘key message’ that encompasses what the company does and who the company serves. This key message should be no longer than one sentence. Now, this is effective communication that gets the entire company on the same bus headed in the same direction knowing where they are all headed.

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