But while there are golden rules to adhere to, the impact of our communications comes from shaping the message for the intended audience. It’s simple really; we just have to focus on what our readers need to do, rather than what our manager wants us to tell people. Internal Communications, as a department, is not a postbox; we’re aligned to the company strategy and working in a very real sense to create value and efficiencies.
We need to give readers what they want, which is clarity, understanding (some context) and clear actions. So we know we need to follow the inverted pyramid and put important points at the top, and we need to make each paragraph, each sentence even, work hard to deliver the message, and no more.
We know people hate acronyms and jargon (unless it’s very well targeted comms for a specific group) and nobody wants to feel like they’re being taught. Yet we let jargon and buzz words infiltrate our prose because … oh I don’t know, some writers / managers like how things sound…
Many a time I return to a content expert and I say that I don’t understand their draft communiqué – I don’t mind saying this (especially as it’s not always strictly true). So, over the phone they tell me in two sentences what’s going on, and I have to exclaim “wow, that sounds great – let’s say that in the summary of your article”.
Why couldn’t they just write that in the first place? Because they have an outmoded need to prove themselves on the page; they’re under peer pressure to present the project news in an important manner. It’s my job, as comms editor, to demonstrate the importance of their news in half-way decent language.
I do my best to represent the audience to content experts and managers. Such writers keep telling me that ‘everyone knows’ what such-n-such means, and I’m there to remind them that we have scores of new-starters each week / month. Besides, few of us have the time to remember other people’s business, so we don’t want them assuming we have; we’ve got our own jobs and expertise.
So, simplicity in communications; it’s something about being authentic, clear and concise yet thoughtful and human.
Photo credit: European Parliament (Lidia Yusopova)
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