Your comms are boring

How can our communiqués compete with a world that knows how to engage people’s attention? Couldn’t our internal communications be, y’know, human and interesting?

Where’s the pleasure in reading the communications you broadcast? Considering that every other medium screams for your audience’s attention and delivers mind-ticklingly pleasing experiences, perhaps our internal communications could be better.

I believe we have to craft our communiqués around the needs and expectations of the reader. This can be in direct opposition to what the content expert or manager above you might desire. Managers often start from a place of ‘we need to tell people’ when really we should be thinking of what our readers may want to do and want to know.

It’s the job of the communicator to represent the audience’s needs and expectations to that busy manager. Once we flip the message around to be for the audience, rather than for one single manager (or indeed, ‘to’ the audience) we can make rapid progress honing the message and chipping off the superfluous words.

But we still run the risk of drafting a dry, brittle, communiqué; it might have all the relevant details but it fails to express its meaning. Expression is a good word. We shouldn’t just state facts and decisions and believe we ‘have communicated‘; no, we need to express the intrinsic ideas and tell the story.

There is a fine line between saying too much, and muddying the waters, and saying too little and losing any impact we were hoping for.

Each year I learn to pare back my comms, to write a little less and to make each sentence work harder. Watching people read their emails, intranet pages and leaflets has confirmed to me the stats in reading: we don’t. We scan-read, looking for headings and keywords that are relevant to our present need.

But this very real need for conciseness and clarity shouldn’t result in communications that are dull, dehydrated and lacking in flavour. Every other medium excepting our press releases, our financial results, our intranet pages and our email memos are vibrant and ooze personality. Everything except our internal communications are a little fun to read; interesting, engaging, pleasurable. It’s little wonder then we find people dedicate so little focus to our company messages. Every other writer woos the reader, but not us. For shame!

Why our comms can be so dull

I asked people on Twitter what they thought made some internal communications so dull.

  • Irrelevant news
  • Poor layout
  • Corporate focussed instead of ‘people focussed’
  • Overbearingly formal verbiage – unnatural language
  • No fun, no personality – a lack of humanity
  • Too many top-down edicts
  • No conversations, no multi-way discussion – a lack of transparent feedback.

But before we ‘social communication’ types get all excited by conversations on the intranet, let’s keep in mind that ‘getting work done’ is many people’s focus:

“We don’t always want “engaging writing + a conversation”. I want good information on how to get things done; I go elsewhere for chat.”
Martin Nesbit (@arrhenius)

Points to ponder, no?


Photo credit: id-iom

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  1. Excellent piece. Very important to focus on telling stories. The most effective internal communications aren’t just well read, but oft repeated. Tell the story so it can be repeated.

  2. As well as the content on the communication, it’s also the method of delivery that effects how receptive your audience will be to the message. People get used to the same forms of communication and attention spans don’t usually last longer than 30 minutes at best if delivering it live. I’m putting on a webinar on the 1st September showing how streaming technology can be used to drive deeper engagement with your audience, you can register to view via link below. We’ll be covering a number of case studies and illustrating real life examples of how this technology increases the effectiveness of you comms.

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