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Whatever your business, be people-focused

Wedge reminds business people that ‘business writing’ is a very different skill to writing for people. Consider the audience, Wedge says.

Business people write business reports that explain the business to the business. When business people write communications from the business to the FTEs* (Full Time Employees) they frequently end up garbling the message, boring people to distraction and insulting the very people who make the business what it is.

Writing is a many varied skill, and communicating to constituents is a tricky matter because your audience is made up of individuals with their own wants and needs, and their own perception of the business. Their perceptions will colour their interpretation of your communication, so you better stop talking about ‘them’ and the ‘business’ that employs ‘them’ and start talking about ‘us‘.

* Only ‘business people’ would refer to people as an acronym!

Communication is not one-way

Your CEO may be able to issue a memo and have his or her will executed by the Board, but talking to a larger audience takes more than telling them that a policy has changed and they must adhere to the latest blah blah regulation.

Whenever you wish your audience to change their behaviours, to recognise business or process change, and to get on board with the company’s new direction, you have to tell a story of where everyone’s going, and why it’s a good thing. And don’t lie or omit the difficulties either – talk about the challenges too, not just the benefits.

Communication is two-way for two reasons; one, you don’t know how people will receive and interpret your message, and two, you’re inviting people to talk back to you regarding your message, or at least talk to each other about it.

You may think that you’ve been clear and direct in your message, but you’re not a Field Worker who’s been with the company for 35 years (at least, I don’t think you are). Considering the size of your organisation, there are going to be plenty of people who know more about where the company has been in the past than you, and will interpret your plans for the company’s future in light of their historical knowledge.

You’re not a young graduate trying to pay of her bills and support her out of work husband either (at least, I don’t think you are, if you work in Internal Comms then you might be). If you’re making changes to people’s working days, or pay packets, don’t assume your changes are insignificant; your work-life is not the same as your audience’s, that’s for sure.

Communication is two-way, or should be, because your announcements invite discussion, speculation and feedback by default. If you don’t offer feedback channels then feedback will be hurled at you through whatever means are available to your constituents – often simply the grapevine and ‘forwarded emails’.

So recognise that your audience want to react to your comms, give them appropriate channels to respond.

Write for the audience, not the business

Like I said in my opening paragraphs, business people write for the business, so if you need to get something out to your people, across all sites, across all cultures, get your Internal Communications department or specialist involved. Don’t assume you know how people will receive your message, get expert guidance.

[Wedge]
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