Monday, December 9, 2013

The Keys to Effective Communication

By Steven Worth, President, Plexus Consulting LLC

More often than not, membership organizations find their stakeholder communications to be a source of frustration for all concerned. Stakeholders complain they are not “getting the messages” sent to them even while those poor souls responsible for communications can document that they are sending out clear messages at machine gun frequency. So what is going on?

It is an old lesson—saying something is not the same as being heard. Communications occurs best when there is an innate understanding between the sender and the receiver. Among other things, the sender knows whom the message is intended to reach, why it should be of interest to them, as well as how and when best to reach them. And therein lies the catch—just because you feel the urge to say something, doesn't mean the person or people you want to speak to is going to hear you—or if they do, that your message will have the desired effect.

Carpenters have a saying that communicators would do well to heed: measure twice, cut once. Too often communicators feel that frequency and volume can compensate for ill- conceived messages that do not seem to be having their intended impact.

Content of course is important. Are those you are trying to communicate with interested in the subject matter? Ever notice how in a noisy room of people you suddenly notice when someone has mentioned your name on the other side of the room?—or that in a noisy theater someone suddenly gasping the word “Fire!” is heard by all? Personal interest tends to filter out the noise and to focus sharply on matters related to self-survival or simple vanity.

But the means and timing of communicating are also important. Using the telephone works, but not at dinner time or at 1:00 am if you ever want that person to take your call again! The print media—newspapers and magazines—used to be a good general way to reach large numbers of people, but people under the age of 30 tend not to rely on the print media for their information as much as previous generations. If you want to reach members of that generation the social media might be the better approach to take.

So yes, you probably can prove your audience has received the newsletters or emails you are sending them, but you may be deceiving yourself if you think they are getting your message. Spending the time and resources first to understand what your audiences want as well as when and how they want to hear from you will save you in time, effort, expense and frustration later!

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