What Are You Trying to Say?

Posted on May 1, 2012

Communication can be a tricky thing. Sometimes we can be misunderstood, even when we think we are communicating clearly. In terms of your business it can affect the success of your promotional material, your client interactions and ultimately your bottom line. So how do you address this?

Firstly, let’s acknowledge that there’s no perfect solution. Every situation is different and you are dealing with different people with different perceptions. As a result it’s impossible to get it right every time and that’s okay!

However, there are ways to ensure that client communications are effective in your business. Here are some tips.

1.  Drop the ‘big’ words – We often use complicated terminology because we believe it adds to our credibility, but mostly it’s just confusing and can make you look like you’re trying too hard. There’s nothing wrong with simple language. Aim to display your knowledge when it comes to your service or product, not in how many big words you know.

2.  Avoid ‘clever’ humour – Humour is always a tricky thing to get right. Sometimes it can fail because it’s mismatched to the audience or it may just be too complicated to be understood. I imagine you’ve seen a lot of advertisements where you have to think about the ‘funny’ slogan before you realise what it means – in which case they’ve probably failed. Definitely use humour, but don’t be too clever and make sure you test it on an audience first. And if you are ever unsure about how it will be received don’t use it.

3.  Use dot points or numbering – I’m a big fan of this one (as you can see!). Using dot points or numbers makes the items easier to read and it also forces you to organise your thoughts effectively when you’re writing. Sometimes people avoid using this style because they believe it isn’t as professional as paragraphs. This is probably because we are trained to write in paragraphs, however, remember that this is all about getting the message across and not about sticking to traditional writing styles.

4.  Think about what you want to say – I know this may sound simple but I’m sure you know how hard it is to do sometimes. Often this is because we are trying to formulate our thoughts as we write. Before you write anything ask yourself what you need to achieve from this piece of communication and then focus on gaining that result. Again use dot points or numbers to help you define what you want to say and reorganise the items once you’ve listed them so it follows a logical sequence (even if you decide to write in paragraph style later).

5.  Keep it short – anything that goes on too long loses people’s attention and they will skip reading some of it. Avoid putting too many messages in any one piece of
communication (whether it is an email, letter or a promotional piece). It’s much better to have separate and more focused communication pieces. And not to sound like I’m repeating myself, but dot points also help you keep your writing short!

6.  Don’t be afraid to stay the same – It can be tempting to change things like advertising (just to freshen it up). Remember that the communication material in your business is like anything else, it needs to contribute to your success. If the format is still generating results then keep using it!

7.  Seek an objective sounding board – We can often believe that something we’ve created is perfectly understandable, but that’s also because we already know what we’re trying to say. Ask someone you trust to give you honest feedback and let them know you won’t get your feelings hurt if they criticize something, as this is valuable feedback.

Simple language is the best way to communicate what you want to say. It also creates the positive impression that you are easy to deal with and it will add to your success with clients as a result. Next time you’re struggling to write that email or putting together a promotional item remember the tips above and just say it!