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Communications, Rants

If you have nothing to say, don’t say anything

shut-upIt’s common sense to keep your trap shut if you’re in a meeting and feeling out of your depth. If you’re worried that people might think you’re a fool, don’t open your mouth and confirm it!

But, it’s human nature to gabble on isn’t it? Some people just have a need to fill the silence, to hear their own voice. I know I can twitter on and on if I feel like I’ve got a captive audience ;)

Sometimes, I feel that people offer their opinions when what we’re asking for is their professional assessment and for their action. Sometimes, I feel people should just get on with the task in hand rather than express their personal preferences.

Too often, we mistake ‘I don’t like it’ gut feelings with ‘this won’t work because of X’ professional assessments. Even in big business, we champion that which we like, sometimes regardless of the practical evidence.

Internal and External Communications can suffer from this wind-bag pontificating too I fear. Some time ago, I was asked to publish an intranet article celebrating the ‘birthday’ of one of our computer systems. OK, that’s fine, but you see, the article had no story, no news, no messages.

A fifty word article saying ‘something has happened’ is not worth my time, nor that of our readers. Articles need to be relevant to the audience – there has to be some point to the article for a good section of the readers. The relevancy and richness can be improved by providing enough context about the subject matter, and about why it’s necessary to communicate about it.

Articles need to be succinct; sometimes they can even be short, but they must offer enough background information and ‘news’ so as to be interesting to the average reader, even if they are not personally affected by the news.

If some milestone has been reached by a team or passed by an application / system then it’s perfectly fine to say what the team or software does for the business, the trials and tribulations faced in the early days, the improvements that have been implemented and plans for the future. It can be great to slip in some hard numbers regarding cash spent or money saved. A decent ‘quote’ from the senior manager thanking the team goes a long way to pleasing people and filling space.

If you want a ‘news’ article that just says ‘something has happened’ then you better make sure that it matters to people, or it shouldn’t get past your editor or onto your intranet or newsletter. If you have nothing to say, don’t expect your editor to say anything.

Good communications need to be:

[Wedge]

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Photo credit:  Laura Borges-Ribeiro

About Wedge

I’m Wedge, and this is my website! I’ve worked within internal communications since 2004, managing intranets and digital comms. Now I’m a freelance comms and intranet specialist - I help organisations plan and improve their intranets. I work with other agencies, and write a lot of blog and magazine articles. I founded the Intranet Now conference. You can catch up with me on Twitter - I’m @Wedge.