Four steps to smart communication - by Hannah McCreery

Do you sometimes feel like you’ve got a ton of great things to say about your business, but none of it appears to get through to the people that matter? Or maybe you’ve got an amazing service that makes people’s lives easier, but when you try to communicate this, the messages seem to disappear into a black hole without making a scrap of difference.

Simply having something to say, doesn’t mean it’ll be heard.

I know planning can be a drag. Let’s be honest, there’s always something more fun to be done. But if you can spend even a small amount of time thinking smarter about your communication, you’ll be in a much better place to get your words heard!

1. Ask yourself, why?

It might seem obvious, but this step is frequently missed. Often people jump straight into “urgently needing a flyer to promote x” without first taking the time to understand what they’re hoping to achieve through their communication. 

Yes, sometimes it’s clear. You might want to let customers know about a special in order to increase sales, for example. Other times, it's not so obvious. Building a sense of community in order to promote engagement in your brand, for instance, might take some thinking.

Spend some time asking yourself a few key questions. What outcome do I want from this? What would success look like? Try and sum it up into a single sentence. Once you’ve got that down pat, every piece of communication should feed back into this objective.

2. Who needs to know?

Once you understand what you’re aiming for, think about who needs to know.

Who are your target audiences? Are there different groups? Can they be broken down into subgroups? What are their characteristics? Is there particular language your target audience will relate to? What content will resonate with them? 

Put yourself in their shoes. What would you want to know if you were them? What would be useful, interesting and engaging? What wouldn’t? Do the ‘so what’ test. If you can’t answer that, your messages need tweaking.

News is a good example of stories being shared with the audience in mind. They’re always relevant in some way - they’re local and timely and the more they impact the audience directly, the more newsworthy they are.

Think about how your words can be made relevant to your audiences. It’s easy to operate in the silo of our own minds, pushing information out and hoping for the best, but if you want it to click, your content must be targeted. 

3. Say it right

Once you know why you’re communicating and who you’re aiming it at, you’ll be in a good spot to figure out what exactly you need to say. You might use different messages or a different style depending on who's at the other end. Think about how each group would want to be communicated with and make sure your copy reflects this.

The way it’s written and exactly what is said may vary depending on the channel you use, but the key messages will remain.

As a rule of thumb, keep your words simple. Be clear and succinct. Avoid fluff and never brain dump to your audience. We get so much info thrown at us, that people don’t have the time or desire to interpret long-winded and roundabout messages. That’s not to say you can’t be creative, in fact creativity is important to get noticed, but it shouldn’t come at an expense. Make it easy for your audience.

Take some time to think about the tone and style of your content and how appropriate it is for the situation. Are your words too casual, too formal or just right?

4. Consider your channels

You’ve done the hard yards by going through the first three steps. Now finally you can think about how you’ll reach those key people.

There are so many communication channels to choose from - websites, social media, email campaigns, blogs, news stories and other media, video, newsletters, flyers, face-to-face presentations, phone conversations, events and the list goes on.

Think about which channel is most appropriate for the message and which channel is most likely to reach your target audience. Remember, the easiest way might not be the most effective.

Communicating is not a 'one size fits all' approach. Tailoring your content to get the best results takes thought.

While your messages may seem like nuggets of gold to you, audiences need to be convinced of their value. Communicating smarter, not harder is the answer.

Hannah McCreery is a freelance marking and brand strategist, and one of our talented villagers. Check out her profile here.