Communication drives business. Whether you source products in a purchasing department, respond to customer inquiries in a call center, screen employees in a human resources department or analyze data warehouses on a research team, your success hinges on whether you can convey information and influence a course of action. A poorly planned message with an ambiguous purpose, that doesn’t consider audience requirements, medium choices, the importance of collaboration, policies, procedures, and ethics and security will likely backfire. At best, poor communication will damage your reputation and leave your audience with a bad impression of your company. At worst, poor communication can cause your audience to misunderstand your intentions or ignore your recommendations. Alternatively, good communication is respected by audience members and is likely to produce planned favorable outcomes.
How can you ensure successful communication?
To ensure successful communication, you need to have a clearly defined purpose, understand your audience, communicate using a medium that is convenient and reliable for your audience, follow legal and ethical frameworks, work cooperatively to develop a unified message and convey sensitive information securely. These six communication pillars are featured in the infographic and detailed below.
In business, people communicate for a wide range of matters, and the strategies and methods we employ to convey our message depends on our needs, conditions, and audience. For example, content, language, tone, and manner should differ, depending on whether we register a complaint or request a favor. The purpose may also determine whether to communicate orally or in writing. For example, you might speak with someone face-to-face when asking a favor and put something in writing that demands legal attention.
Clearly defining your communications purpose and keeping it foremost is essential as you develop and transmit your message. Clearly defining a communications purpose helps you stay focused on what is relevant both to the subject matter and to the person you are addressing and greatly improves your odds of achieving your goals. Although achieving your objectives without proper planning and defining your purpose might occur, you won’t always be successful if you come to the subject without adequate planning.
To communicate effectively, you must understand your audience. The way you write or speak and the language you use should correspond to the culture, education, experiences and other characteristics that define your audience. With audiences that are inexperienced with your company, you should use plain language that is simple to understand. Audiences that know your company and its products might be more comfortable with specific jargon. However, profiling your audience based on their familiarity with your business may not be enough. In some situations, you should search for other factors to target your message for successful results. Once you completed an audience analysis, try to develop a message that targets their point of view.
Here are some basic questions that you can use to profile your audience and develop a communications strategy that centers on your audience.
- How familiar is your audience with the topic that you will be discussing?
- What is the level of decision-making of your audience in regards to your project?
- Do you have a formal or informal relationship with your audience?
- Is the topic popular or unpopular with your audience and will they be interested in listening?
- What position is supported by the audience and why?
- What action is the audience likely to take after receiving your communication?
Many times, communicators choose a medium to transmit their messages for the wrong reasons. Generally, communicators decide whether to write or speak to someone, based on their own preference and convenience. However, the choice should involve serious consideration of the audience. The best decisions are based on careful consideration of the audience receiving your message and the trade-offs associated with speaking versus writing.
Writing offers a lasting record that can be used to convey detailed facts and figures and precise language. Writing also allows the communicators to include source materials in the form of tables, lists, charts and graphics that can provide supplemental data that would be impractical or impossible to convey in speaking to recipients. Speaking invites audience participation and offers opportunities to engage in active listening that elicits immediate feedback, identifies objections, responds in real-time and gauges understanding and buy-in. But writing invites considered evaluation.
Today’s businesses have a broad range of communication channels they can use. To communicate with audiences, businesses can use face-to-face meetings, memos, letters, social media, webinars, and teleconferences. Access to professional 24-hour translation services even permits easy communication to global audiences. Regardless of how you deliver your message, don’t just choose the most convenient form of communication for yourself. Stop, consider your options, and choose the right channel and medium for your message. Embrace new communication channels, but be mindful of limitations, such as how the infrastructure within each country can limit access and effectiveness.
Formal rules and regulations cannot begin to encompass all the expectations that society has for business, nor is it possible to enforce all of them. Yet, beyond formal rules and regulations, business is also governed by a set of unwritten ethical expectations. Thus, today’s businesses behave in a socially responsible manner that protects the long-run interests of the public and the environment. Progressive companies influence communicators to look beyond regulatory systems and do what is right. Not only should businesses have ethical communications policies, but they must also back them with actions.
In the past, business communication was widely viewed as a solo function. Today, however, communicating effectively often requires teamwork, as the complexity, volume, implications, and precision of decisions and information have become so diverse as to spread across many people, disciplines, and stakeholders. Effective collaboration can be challenging due to bureaucracies, lack of participation, cultural and linguistic differences, and distrust that must be overcome to ensure team success. Additionally, a unified message must be communicated correctly to accomplish established goals.
Regardless of your position, all employees must respect and safeguard confidential and sensitive data, whether it is stored internally, processed on servers or transmitted externally. As you communicate, you must maintain the security and integrity of the information you share. It is your responsibility to ensure safe communication by deterring internal corporate crime, fraud, theft, ethical breaches, and misconduct. Careless disregard for adequate security can destroy your reputation and subject a business to dangerous legal and social examination.
Small meeting room– stock image