(Good) Communication is Not Confusing

by Brian Burns on 14 June 2011

in Uncategorized

There are many things that are confusing in this world: calculus, Congress and the BCS to name a few.

However, good communication should not be one of them. Whether you’re writing a personal email to a friend or a multi-page technical document about a new piece of machinery, clarity should be the goal.

All writers have indicators that tell them they need to reexamine the foundation of a piece. For a fiction writer, stale dialougue may be an indication of poor character development. To us at SpeakWell Communications, seemingly-confusing messaging is indication that the ideas behind a project are not sufficiently developed.

When the ideas or concepts that lie at the foundation of any organization are well-developed and can be clearly stated, that organization’s communication will never seem confusing. Whether they are giving customer service or writing their website content, the words they need will practically form themselves.

When the ideas at the foundation of an organization or project are poorly developed or in their infancy, every stage of communications after that may seem confusing or difficult. In this type of project, you may find yourself often wondering “Why is this so hard?” or “Why can’t I just say what I mean?”

If you find yourself confused with any form of online communications, we urge you to see it as an idea problem, not as a wording problem. Go back to the beginning to ensure your foundation for the communication is secure (including the purpose and format) before going to the execution phase. Ideas first. Words second.

Writing and communicating are not inherently confusing. They only seem so because they reflect our own divergence from our values. Treat the source of the problem and not only will your communications improve, but your own image of an organization’s foundation may be better off for it.

Want to learn more about SpeakWell Communications? Read our post about how a communications company is different than a PR or marketing firm!

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As the world of Internet business grows, so it seems does the pace of communications. The advent of real-time services such as Twitter have sped conversations up, creating the perception that companies have to engage with their customers at the speed of noise.

While it is tempting to buy into this perception, racing to engage with potential customers quicker and more efficiently than ever, doing so actually flies in the face of years of established principles of communication: relationships take time and continual effort to build.

Friendships are not built in one day. Successful marriages are not formed in a single month. Nike has been communicating with customers with its ‘swoosh’ consistently since 1971. And successful presidential campaigns are now starting 2-3 years before the actual election, using more time (instead of less) to get a candidate’s message across to voters.

For organizations large and small, successful communication strategies are built for the long-term. They are established on your website or in your storefront, reinforced in your in-person, email and phone conversations with customers, and emphasized through advertising or social media. Clear, friendly and personal interactions have a continued impact over time that establishes strong and lasting relationships.

My favorite current example of this approach in action is Pro Photo Rental*, a company that rents photo equipment to aspiriing or traveling photographers. Not only is the PPR website designed and written to be inviting and friendly, but each interaction after that is consistent with this message. Whether you DM, email or call, the staff or owner will personally take the time to answer your questions or solve your problem in a caring and direct way.

The residual effect of all these interactions is the formation of a strong and lasting relationship between customer and company. While PPR faces stiff competition, almost all of whom offer comparable prices and shipping offers, they have been able to become one of the top dogs of the industry. While a competing website may run a special promotion or appealing ad campaign, their repeat customers will continue to do business with the people they know and trust.

If the theoretical principles and real-life example teaches us anything, it is that there is nothing wrong with engaging in the high-speed arena of social media tools. You may find them immensely helpful to your brand and bottom-line. Whenever proceeding in these mediums, however, remember the lessons of communicators before you. Great relationships are built methodically. Not instantly.

Disclaimer: Pro Photo Rental has been a paying client of SpeakWell Communications in the past. However, there is no formal relationship currently in place and we have not been compensated in any way for this mention.

Disclaimer #2: The owner of Pro Photo Rental bought me a coffee for my birthday. This still does not constitute a formal relationship, and no other compensation has been received for this mention.

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Our music playlist at SpeakWell Communications is wide-ranging, including albums from Miles Davis to Big Boi to Justin Bieber (we admit it). However, it is also heavy on country music artists like Garth Brooks, Justin Moore, Easton Corbin and Jason Aldean.

While many people turn up their nose at country music, especially in the urban-oriented world of online communications, we believe it has valuable lessons to teach us all. Here are at least three things about writing you can learn from country music:

1. Be Genuine

Even with the inevitable contradiction of million-dollar entertainers singing about the working man’s life, country music labors to stay true to its roots. The lyrics speak clearly to who the artist is and what they love to do, not just how great or famous they are.

Even if you don’t have someone named ‘Bubba’ in your family, you can strive for this genuine tone in your company’s writing. To copy this approach, aim to speak the truth about who you are, what you do, and perhaps most importantly, why you love to do it.

2. Be Values-Based

Country music is primarily values based. The list goes something like: God, family, country, hard work, drinking, chewing tobacco and getting over a heartache. Even if you have a completely different set of values, you can’t help but admire the straight-forward way that these are presented.

In your own writing, you can do well by trying to emulate this approach. Potential customers can likely get your product or service from numerous other sources, and want to know what makes you different. Speaking to your values, and giving them a chance to form a connection, is a great way to compel someone to shop with you.

3. Be Simple

The saying goes that all you need to write a hit country song is a dog that died, a truck that broke down and a lover that walked out. While the reality may be slightly more complex than that, country music is simple at its very foundations.

It’s a wise policy. The simple approach was good enough for Strunk & White, who penned an entire chapter in their book, Elements of Style, that read “omit needless words.” It’s probably good enough for you, too. Say what you came to say. Say it passionately. Then get out of the way.

—> Have a writing or communications lesson you learned from country music? Share it in the comments section below.

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