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Communication Alert: Context Trumps Content

by | Oct 8, 2019

You’re at an art museum. You see a picture in a gallery. You think to yourself, “This looks just like my kid’s artwork on my fridge. But it must be good or it wouldn’t be framed and here.” *

Another scenario – you’re at a wine tasting/experiment. You’re told to sip five different wines with price tags of $5, $10, $35, $45, and $90 per bottle. You report that the $90 bottle tastes better than the $10, and the $45 bottle better than the $35 bottle. Except you’ve been fooled. The $10 bottle and the $90 bottle are the same wine! **

You’re conditioned. Your reaction to the piece of art and the wine is based more on context – the environment – than content – the substance.

Recently I saw GRAMMY® Award-winner and world-renowned violinist Joshua Bell perform with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and it reminded me of The Washington Post’s social experiment for what would become a Pulitzer Prize winning article by Gene Weingarten. Gene asked Joshua to wear a baseball cap and pose as a street performer. Would people stop to hear stunning music played on a $3 million dollar Stradivarius in a subway station during rush hour? ***

  • 1,097 people passed by.
  • 27 people stopped.
  • Three days before his subway debut, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats averaged $100.

As leaders in your organization, how are you sharing content in regard to context? Are you creating a Total Experience to gain  “all in” traction to your presentations, your brand, your value?

Your content is a given. It better be good or you would not be the leader of your business.

Communication alert: Don’t forget about your context. Set the stage exactly how you want to be perceived by your particular audience. Don’t leave this to chance or we’ll walk right by.

Call us to work on how to conceptualize your context.

* source: Front of Reisman refrigerator door.

** source: Wine Study Shows Price Influences Perception https://www.caltech.edu/about/news/wine-study-shows-price-influences-perception-1374 PS: “In a follow-up experiment, the subjects again tasted all five wine samples, but without any price information; this time, they rated the cheapest wine as their most preferred.”

***source: The Washington Post 4.8.07 article: “Pearls Before Breakfast” by Gene Weingarten

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Karen Cortell Reisman, MS, Executive Communication Author & Speaker


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