Personal branding has seen a lot of attention lately. For good reason. It’s a great way to set yourself apart and communicate your value. It’s self-marketing.
While it’s extremely important, the articles I see zinging through social media and showing up in newsletters are super tactical. It’s the how without focusing on the what or the why…
Continue reading Personal Branding: How To Create A Powerful, Memorable YOU
It was a hard choice for me to shell out the money for an online writing workshop. In the end, the sales page convinced me. So now I’d like to pass on a detailed review to anyone else struggling with the decision to enroll in the Simple Writing System. Continue reading Review of John Carlton’s Simple Writing System
Assumptions will kill you
In communications, assumptions are a major cause for mistakes.
In communications, mistakes are often public.
A lesson I’ve learned the hard way is assume nothing. Question everything. Continue reading Assumptions in Communication: The Mistake that Keeps on Giving
Organization is a great way to improve your productivity—up to a point. Once you cross the line, you’re spending too much time on your system and navigating through a maze of folders. In terms of communicating your message, disorganization is confusing, random and sloppy; too much organization is long, overly detailed and boring.
How do you find the right balance? Continue reading Organization: How Much Is Too Much?
As far as practicing communication, you can split from there into strategy and tactics.
One of the biggest fallacies about (and frustrations of) communications departments in the corporate world is that they are there to simply blast out what you think you want (a tool, such as a newsletter or email) versus being a valued business partner (a subject matter expert who can coach you through the process). This topic deserves a post to itself, but I’ll say now that more focus is placed on outputs rather than outcomes.
That’s the strategy vs. tactics differentiation.
Strategies (or outcomes) are what you want to accomplish at a high level.
Tactics (or outputs) are how you’re going to accomplish the strategy.
Here are some examples:
- Strategy: Destroy the death star
- Tactic: Fly an X-wing, guarded by many other starships, into the death star’s trench where you’ll fire a proton torpedo into an exhaust hole that’s so poorly designed it will explode the entire moon-sized, planet-destroying space station.
- Strategy: Increase managers’ awareness of important announcements that might get lost in the daily shuffle
- Tactic: Send short email targeted to people managers with brief summaries of important, relevant events with links to more information (preferably on the company’s intranet)
- Tactic: Create a site/portal for managers on the company intranet containing only high-level, important and relevant topics and documents
See the difference?
What happens far too often is the exact opposite:
“I need a logo.”
“Post this article.”
“Help me with a newsletter.”
“Send this email to the entire company.”
“Lend me a rock to throw at the death star.”
Good communicators ask questions. Lots of ’em.
The purpose of the questions isn’t to clarify your instructions for interrupting everyone with a poorly written email that doesn’t pertain to them. The questions are meant to find out what the end goal is.
Get back to the strategy/outcome first.
Maybe we send the email, post the article. Maybe we do send a squadron of X-wings to shoot a missile through an exhaust vent. But there’s no way of knowing if that’s what’s necessary until your desired outcome is clear.
Create a clearly defined, measurable outcome before putting tactics to work.
Although what I do in my day job and practice most is professional or corporate communications (Wikipedia), I like the unadulterated definition best:
Communication is the activity of conveying information through the exchange of thoughts, messages, or information, as by speech, visuals, signals, writing, or behavior.
Communication requires a sender, a message, and a recipient, although the receiver need not be present or aware of the sender’s intent to communicate at the time of communication; thus communication can occur across vast distances in time and space. Communication requires that the communicating parties share an area of communicative commonality. The communication process is complete once the receiver has understood the message of the sender.
From that definition (thanks again, Wikipedia), the different types of communication are just tailoring it to your specific purpose or audience. The basics don’t change.
Emails, tweets, graphic design, speeches, extended middle fingers: these are all just methods of getting your point across.
Communication is about optimizing two important branches:
- Knowing what your point is and who it’s for
- Getting it across in the best way possible
Those who are a fan of using their middle finger have all the pieces of communication figured out:
- they know their message
- they know their audience
- they know the timing of the message
- the know the owner of the message
- they’ve chosen a delivery method appropriate for their aforementioned message and audience
From now on, when you hear the abstract concept of “communication,” you’ll know exactly what it is.
Communication is a middle finger.