How to Keep Your Messages Out of the Trash Can

Right now, during the coronavirus pandemic, everyone is communicating. You’ve probably received a message, like I have, from every single company you’ve ever done business with over the years.

Some of these are well-written and effective, and some go straight in the trash can. What makes the difference?

At PeopleResults, our clients often ask us to partner with them on communications to employees or other stakeholders for projects underway. If you find yourself needing to communicate more (or differently) now, than in the past, apply these best practices.

Communicate from the perspective of what the audience needs to hear (NOT what you need to say)

These are often two very different messages.

Lead by answering the question for the audience of What’s In It For Me? (WIIFM) or What Action Do You Want Me To Take? so they have reason to keep reading or paying attention.

You may need to share background context or details afterwards, but outline the actions required first. Some (ok, many) readers may never get to the details. Lead with what’s most important first.

Effective communication = that which is understood

Think about it like communicating in different languages. If you’re talking to someone in Russian, but they only speak Spanish, then you’re not communicating effectively. Similarly, if you’re sending emails, but your intended audience only reads text messages (or social media), then you’re not communicating effectively.

Adjust your approach to meet the needs of your desired audience. You must first understand who your audience is and what their communications needs look like. This is typically accomplished through an audience analysis.

The same message: Over and over and over again

You have to deliver the same message more than one time, through more than one channel before it sinks in. Your audience has to hear it more than one time to understand it. They have to be ready to receive the message, even when you have shared it before.

WARNING: As a leader, this gets very old. You feel like you’re constantly repeating yourself. It is necessary anyway. See blog post on the marathon effect

The sender of the message matters. The closer the person to them who delivers the message, the better. Ideally, it’s their immediate supervisor, but that’s not always possible.

What would you add to this list of best practices?

Betsy Winkler is a Partner at PeopleResults. She can be reached on Twitter @BetsyWinkler1