Making your communications relevant

Relevancy – part 1 of a series of 5 looking at what makes a good piece of communication.

The concept of ‘good communications’, like ‘great content’, can be debated ad infinitum, and perhaps it should – everything evolves and we’ve got to keep up. One aspect of good comms that shouldn’t be controversial is the need for the message to be relevant to the receiver / audience.

Relevancy is based, not on your needs or the company needs but on the receiver’s needs. That’s a heavy concept. Here we are, with a need to inform our members, stakeholders, supporters (etc.) about our new Thingamajig and our organisation really needs us to do it well, but all that’s by-the-by. What really matters is how our constituents are going to think when they process the information we provide about the Thingamajig. If it doesn’t match their needs, if it doesn’t inform them, make them change their behaviour or at least make them feel good about the availability of the aforementioned Thing, then the message is irrelevant.

At best, our audience takes no notice of us, ignores our comms and gets on with their day. At worst, they waste their time under the assumption that some how this Thingamajig is going to revolutionise their life, if they could just work out how to get hold of one… then five minutes later (or longer, oops) they realise that the Thingamajig is for ‘other people’ and not them, and they’ve wasted all that time reading and comprehending for no reason.

If relevancy is based on what our audience finds useful, how are we to judge if we’re communicating through the right channel to the right people? (If you broadcast all your communications then it’s a certainty that you’re wasting people’s time with irrelevant material.)

In short, we can’t ever be sure. But we can target our communications to match groups of people. For example, we might send a comprehensive document and an explanatory email to senior managers, and then publish a brief overview and Q&A list for all employees. Those people who have concerns about the new info / change can talk to their (hopefully) informed managers.

Using the intranet to tell ‘everyone’ that a specific store is changing its opening times is non-targeted, and wastes most people’s time. A targeted ‘desk drop’ (a leaflet perhaps) to the people directly affected would be better, in sync with a management cascade and face-to-face team meetings.

Is it actionable?

By targeting your communications you can better ensure your message is relevant (useful) to the audience. You have to practice empathy in order to consider if something is relevant to a group of people. Do warehouse workers want to know about the longer opening times of your stores? Have a think – probably not, but what if sales will go up and therefore stock volumes and turn-around times are going to fluctuate? Then maybe they do care – if you can customise the message for them and use an accessible channel that they refer to.

As I said previously when I was worrying about ‘over-communication‘; if it’s hard to work out if something is relevant, just ask yourself ‘is it actionable by the receiver?’

If the audience members have to change their thinking or behaviour then you’re asking them to take action, so you have a ‘call to action‘ within your message: “Please destroy previous pink forms and download the new green forms now.”

If there’s nothing for people to do, then it’s possible your message is irrelevant, so are you certain you want to send / publish it?


P.S. I’ve been saying that good communications is made up in part by the following list. I’m keen to hear your thoughts about these high level concepts, and I’m writing about all five throughout this week.

Good Comms:

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Over communicating

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Are your comms timely?

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