Ask any manager to list their biggest challenges and ‘communication’ will be somewhere in the top five. Ask them for a solution and they’ll say what’s needed is more communication, more often. But my guess is there’s already too much communication – that doesn’t work.
Communication is whatever you do to transmit information, thoughts and ideas from one mind to another, something you do to create a specific change in behaviour, attitude or mindset.
It’s that last part that really matters; we communicate for a particular reason, or at least, we should. But a lot of the communication that clogs everything from the inbox to the letter box seems to have been generated without any special purpose in mind.
When I worked in the communications business (back in the last century) my clients would say ‘We need a video’ or ‘We want a conference’ or ‘We want one of them new-fangled web-site thingys that the kids are into these days’. They’d turn up with their brief, ready to answer any question, except The Big One: Why?
People get so excited about the medium (‘Hey, let’s make an app!’) that they skip all the tedious questions about the audience we’re trying to reach, the messages we’re trying to convey or the result we’re trying to achieve and go straight to the sexy business of sound, colour and movement.
Think of that last powerpoint presentation you just saw. Five different fonts in six different colours, some clip art characters, a video segment, two web-links (that didn’t work for some reason) and every wipe, fade, zoom, split and animate that the software had to offer.
What was it about, do you remember? What was the key idea? What did the presenter want you to do about it? Don’t know, or not sure? Don’t feel bad. The presenter didn’t know either.
Why am I telling you this? Actually, that’s the first question every communicator should ask. (If they don’t ask, the audience does… which is really awkward for everyone.) As for me, I’m telling you so you become better communicators. Think of it as a public service.
Once I’m clear about that, I need to ask ‘who’s my audience?’ You are. What do I know about you? Let’s see: interested in ideas, tech savvy (but not too much), usually a bit strapped for time but can find a moment to read the odd blog post, looking for practical tools and techniques to be better at… whatever it is that you do.
Once I know who you are (and why I want to talk to you) then I can focus on my messages.
- Know what you want from your audience. (tick!)
- Know who that audience is. (tick!)
- Know what you want to say to them. (tick!)
Ok, so NOW I can think about the medium that might best serve the messages I want to convey to my audience so I can get the result I want.
I’m thinking maybe a blog post…