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  • Writer's pictureBrad Cochrane

High-Fidelity Communication in a Low-Fidelity World

One hundred years ago, John met Mary at the annual town picnic and fell hard. In love’s first blush, the boy and girl spent every minute together. But alas, they parted, each to their home. So they did the next best thing to being in each other’s company: long phone calls talking until the talk ran out and the sound of the other’s breath was simply enough. Yet it wasn’t quite the same as being together because phone technology can’t close the gap of human contact.  

A face-to-face experience is High-Fidelity communication that engages listening, watching, and perhaps touching. Its action and reaction centered in sight, sound, and body language as well as sharing an environment of light, noise, smell, and temperature. High-Fidelity communication takes place in the realm of conscious stimulation as well as subconscious intuition. Whenever a technology is introduced into the communication path, some fidelity and clarity is lost. Although the telephone increases communication efficiency by aiding in talking across distances, it’s not the same as being in the same room. 


While every advancement in communication technology has enabled us to communicate in greater quantities, frequency, and immediacy, the quality of those individual communications has decreased. A text cannot replace a touch, a webinar cannot replace a classroom, and a teleconference cannot replace collaboration. As communicators, we have drifted into a Low-Fidelity world in which we measure success by the number of actions rather than the quality of an individual interaction that is human and true.

The reliance on measurement has led to the fallacy that if it can’t be measured, it doesn’t exist. For example, in the political arena, data-centric polling led to flawed predictions of the Brexit vote and Donald Trump’s election. Why did they get it so wrong? Because the pollsters had moved resources from expensive face-to-face High-Fidelity interviews to cheap online and telephone Low-Fidelity polling. Their approach that focused on shallow data points couldn’t record deeper human opinion. As smart politicians know, it’s not the votes themselves but the personal political discourse that is reflected in the votes.

In marketing, the Low-Fidelity gap can be narrowed through High-Fidelity storytelling that stimulates senses, thought, and imagination. Although imperfect, qualitative storytelling is more effective than quantitative feature-listing because it’s less affected as the technology degrades the message. As my printer friends point out, if one wants a better-quality copy, start with a better-quality original.

In the digital free-for-all with its spaghetti-like distribution paths, a great story engages your customer and keeps their attention on your product –a significant upside. We can make messages as short or as long as they need to be. Messages that used to be constrained to a 30 second commercial can now naturally expand into several minutes. In an environment of time-limited research, the customer is spending their scarce moments with your product rather than your competitor’s. You’ve successfully staked out your claim in the audience’s mind-scape.

--From Story First Marketing: Moving Your Customers to Action by Brad Cochrane

Public Speaker, Author, and Communication Consultant, Brad can be reached at or email him directly at Story First Marketing: Moving Your Customers to Action is available on Amazon.

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