Jonathan Willard leads the New York office of Decker Communications. The Belong team first fell for The Decker Method when we read Made To Stick, Decker’s seminal guide to business storytelling. Since then we’ve attended their ‘messaging bootcamp’, and are avid followers of their blog. We caught up with Jonathan to learn more about Decker’s philosophy, and find out how he brings out the best in his clients.
At Decker, we’re really in the influence business. If I’m going to influence you, I first need to know what you’re getting from me. I need to understand how you perceive me. That’s the core of what Decker does; we enable people to become aware of the communications experience they’re creating.
Influence is about keeping the focus on the other person. Do I understand who you are, how you have come to our conversation, how you perceive me, what you’re looking for from me? If I can figure out the answers to all these questions, then the likelihood of me having an impact has gone up exponentially.
In the corporate world, the biggest myth is that communications are focussed on information. A corporation might want their people to absorb information, but information is forgettable. What they should be doing is thinking about what they can do to make their people feel something.
My working day involves a lot of aspirational conversations with clients. I love that we’re in the role of helping people achieve their higher order objectives. None of our clients engages Decker simply because they need to keep going. They work with us because they want to do better, and be better.
It’s important to stay curious. I’ve just interviewed someone for a position here, who found out about us because she shared an Uber with someone from the company and asked them ‘hey, what is it you do?’. She asked questions, and her curiosity opened doors.
I studied poetry and playwriting at college. After graduating I quickly realised it wasn’t the most prudent way of making money. I was lucky enough to get a job in Brooklyn, as a speechwriter for the president of the Pratt Institute School of Art. It wasn’t long before I realised that my unconventional degree might give me an advantage when it came to corporate communication. In business, you hear a lot of people talking about ‘thinking outside the box’, but if, like me, you’d never been in that box, you’re thinking outside of it by definition.