notes and program for Communicators Conference 2017

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the 20th Anniversary Edition of Portland’s 2017 Communicator Conference hosted by PRSA Oregon. It was a wonderful event full of inspiring speakers and top-notch communicators.

The conference got me thinking; effective communication skills are critical for conversion rate optimization professionals and design agencies. Understanding your audience and how to speak to them is essential to any successful UX design. By optimizing communication, you are optimizing your customer’s experience. Here are my top takeaways:

Focus on Storytelling

Andrew Robinson, a brand anthropologist, discussed the importance of using a simple framework for complex communication. This is incredibly relevant for UX design. Andrew argued that all communication should use a narrative framework. This means setting up a struggle and a resolution. How the customer gets from struggle to resolution is up to you, but make sure you take the customer across that story arc. It is our job as UX designers and effective communicators to help create a language and culture of narrative thinking. When designing an experience, try to craft a story that your audience can relate to and remember that “everything communicates something.” Make sure what your design is communicating stands out from the crowd.

Remember, It’s Not About You

nike - there is no finish line ad

It’s about your audience. It is easy to get caught up in your big idea and your own mindset, but what matters most is the customer. Andrew explored Nike’s 1977 “there is no finish line” campaign, one of the most widely recognized and sensationalized campaigns around (Click image to enlarge). A key reason this campaign was so successful was that it made the customer feel like the subject of the the photo could be them. In the text of the ad, for every one word about Nike, there are four words about the audience. If all the customer is experiencing with your design is brand placement, they won’t feel that special connection. So, make it all about them and “anchor yourself in the emotional experience of your customer.”

Make Your Audience Feel Understood

The last thing any customer wants is to feel like they are being talked at. By understanding your customer’s needs, moods and motivations at a deeper level you can create experiences that resonate with them emotionally, ultimately increasing engagement and establishing a connection that stays with them for a long time. Andrew put it best by saying, “make them feel known.” Make your audience the hero in your user experience story. Go beyond the surface – an experience that understands the user has endless potential.


“Resonance is the foundation of storytelling and reaching your goal.” Simply getting your customer’s attention isn’t enough anymore. “Resonance is the ultimate form of engagement.” 90 percent of all communication is ultimately about the “how,” yet most marketing communication focuses on the “what.” When designing a user experience, it is critical to create something that resonates with your audience. Focus on how your user experiences the journey, not just the destination. Getting a customer to see your design is great but you want their journey to stick with them. You want it to resonate.

Make Them Care

Piseth Pich focused on connecting with your audience before even uttering your first word. Piseth outlined four steps for making this connection:

  • Trust in the storyteller
  • Drama
  • Relatability
  • Immersion

One of the most important aspects of good communication and UX design is that you have to make your customer care. Piseth argued that one of the best ways to do this is to trigger the customer’s limbic system. This means making them feel a strong emotional connection to the experience you design. Customers won’t care about your design just because they journeyed through it, you have to make them care about it. Take them on a user experience journey that makes them feel something and makes them take a stake in your brand.

Comm Con - Two people on stage in chairs speaking

Closing remarks from keynote speaker Alex Thompson from REI and PRSA Boardmember, Mark Mohammadpour

The Communicators Conference was an important reminder that communication plays a role in everything we do. This means that clear and effective communication is particularly critical to successful user experience design. How you communicate with your audience, ultimately, can determine the success or failure of your design.

Thank you so much to PRSA Oregon for an outstanding event!

– Written by Sophie Ey, Jr. Marketing Coordinator