Sometimes I get discouraged because I believe that people tend to think that their responsibility for communication is solely in the dissemination or, “telling” part of the communication. Discouraged because there are so many more vehicles than ever to use for delivering information; as a result the problem becomes exponential in size.
This may be reinforced by having a communications industry that is closely linked to media, which helps make “broadcast” the most logical synonym for “communication” in the public mind.
I recall a time when management at the company where I worked was fond of telling us that “each of us was 100% responsible for communication”. I had a sense of confusion and frustration thinking that if I had 100 %, therefore total, responsibility for communicating, then what responsibility did the other party or parties have? Zero? It just didn’t make sense to me.
(I admit that yes, maybe I think too much, but words and concepts are important to me. Besides, if I didn’t have this predilection, what would I write about?)
After many years of pondering, lots more business experience, working in Marketing where it is an important requirement to identify with the consumer and champion their needs within the organization, and working in Public Relations where you work to be heard, here is my 100% rule.
You have 100% responsibility for communication. 50% of that responsibility is for telling, and 50% of that for ensuring that it is heard.
The telling part is pretty easy. Just fire off the e-mail, communiqué, press release, blog post, tweet, make your presentation or say your piece. There’s 50% of your responsibility discharged!
But how can you be responsible for ensuring that what you have to tell is heard? This is the challenging part of the 50%. Challenging, but very do-able.
You need to present the information in a way that helps make sure the audience wants/needs to hear it.
Know your audience. Understand who you are addressing with your communication. The better you can answer this question, the higher the success rate in ensuring they hear your message.
Make it relevant. By knowing who you are talking to, you can tailor the information so that it meets their informational needs. Use a tone that resonates with them. Make sure the words you use are in their vocabulary.
Make it interesting. I have noticed a lot of articles recently about “story-telling” and “storyfying”. The point is to provide information as a story or within a story; to use a traditional beginning, middle and end format along with “conflict” to add interest. Telling a story about your product/service, or using your product/service in a story helps convey news in an appealing manner.
Make it valuable. People appreciate learning something, receiving new information or getting information that specifically relates to them or to their own particular needs. When you know your audience, your consumer or consumer, you understand what will be helpful to them or how to convey information in a helpful manner.
Engage. Communication should be engaging. It should get people interested, curious, motivate them to reply, to share, to act. Engineer your communication so that it is oriented to doing something. Ask a question, highlight an issue, suggest an action.
Take the information or news that you want to convey. Ask yourself the following questions:
Who are my customers/consumers/clients?
What about this information is most important/relevant to my customers/consumers/clients?
Why would my customers/consumers/clients find this important?
How can I make this information most interesting/relevant to my customers/consumers/clients?
Put yourself in the role of the recipient of the communication. What would you want to hear? Why? How could the information be conveyed to best engage ?
By doing this, you are assuming the 50% responsibility for guaranteeing your message gets heard.
Now having 100% responsibility for communication makes sense to me.