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“What we’ve got here,” announces the prison warden in the movie Cool Hand Luke, “is a failure to communicate.”
How many times have you heard that is the root of any given problem? If only we all communicated more and better, everything would be solved.
Well, maybe not everything, but most things. Effective communication is a two-way street: sender and receiver, explanation and understanding. It’s fair to say improving communication will improve interpersonal interactions and boost net results. Communication leads engagement, and engagement leads results.
Everything Communicates Something
Even saying nothing communicates something. Imagine a time you said something to your spouse or significant other and they just stood there, silent, yet you surely knew exactly what they were telling you.
We communicate with written words, pictures, speech, gestures, movements and posture. How and when we communicate is just as critical as what we have to say.
For most corporate communications, the messages we convey seek a response, an action or a change in thinking from the party we are communicating with.
How do we want them to respond? What action do we want them to take? Why is it important they receive this message? In this world of communication overload, where we compete for limited time and attention, nobody appreciates additional noise. Before saying or sending a word, ask why the communication recipient would want to receive it. What value is in it for them?
Once we know why we’re sending a message, we need to carefully consider how we’re going to send it. Marshall McLunan’s 50-year-old advice that the medium is the message is no less true today. The channel you choose is an important factor in how your message is received and perceived.
• In person: This is clearly the most robust way to communicate with all the different modalities available to you, both verbal and nonverbal, but difficult to achieve in large organizations.
• Video: This provides much of what a personal visit would, but with a layer of impersonal abstraction. To overcome that, pay close attention to scene, setting, lighting and audio.
• Phone (or should we say voicemail?): Certainly tone of voice can help impart the layer of emotional content often misconstrued from a paragraph of text, but at the risk of stumbling on words or being too formalized and losing the audience.
• The printed page: Magazines still exist for a reason. Digital news feeds are convenient, but the pace and quality of print on paper remains a viable option for slow-moving but high-value content.
• Screens: Intranet pages, social media posts, texts, apps and digital signage — these are references, reminders and conversational components, often fast-moving bits best used within a broader message context.
• Email: This is clearly the corporate communication preference, with the capability to include, reference or be the hub for every other channel. Email is universally accessible, easily targeted and inexpensively distributed, yet easily lost in overflowing inboxes.
The Craft Of Communications
One of the unfortunate casualties of today’s digital communications is syntax and language. Most audiences are fine with this because our daily personal consumption of texting and social swiping is informal and meant to be quick and unedited. Selective word choice and careful editing are often lost, as first drafts are final drafts. The positive side of this is unpolished video and unvarnished language is now acceptable and may even be perceived as more authentic, albeit less thoughtful.
Beyond that, how you craft and deliver your communications depends upon your audience and what you want to accomplish, as well as how you want the audience to feel about you and your message.
For example, you may want certain corporate employee communications to feel more like casual conversations between friends: intimate and simple. Alternatively, you may want your readers to be impressed with the look and feel of your message to impart the quality and importance of the content. Tools to help keep either of these styles of messages up to brand standards are helpful for consistently delivering these messages through multiple layers of your organization.
For most corporate communications, you will want to convey quality, value and intelligence, so paying close attention to syntax and grammar and having skilled designers, writers and editors on your team is paramount.
It’s All About Results
You are investing in corporate communications for a reason, generally to achieve specific results. Much like the rest of your business operations, communications can be measured. With some advance planning and modern tools, monitoring communications efforts and effects over time is attainable. Getting a handle on reach and readership, interactions and engagement, feedback and comprehension will only lead to better and more effective corporate communication, which leads to higher employee engagement and improved business performance. Let’s communicate.
February 11, 2019 at 08:38AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs