Communication is a tricky business. Particularly for businesses.
Companies want to shout about their successes, about everything they’re good at, so people buy more. They want employees to appreciate the opportunities they have and be motivated to work hard.
To get the message across companies talk about what they think sets them apart. They celebrate their new contracts and product developments, focus on their new recruits, tell employees what to do and how to behave.
It’s all me, me, me. I’m the bit’s that interesting. I know best.
Imagine how much more powerful it would be if communication were a conversation. Everyone can get involved in a conversation and with involvement comes commitment, loyalty and engagement. And wouldn’t we all love committed, loyal and engaged customers and employees!
To have a conversation all participants need to have their say and be heard, which takes some time and energy.
To illustrate the point let me tell you about a moment on a recent shift at Samaritans.
People don’t just call us on the phone. They get in touch by email and text too.
At the moment I’m mentoring a new Samaritan. Last week we worked on an email together. We read back over all the emails the individual had sent in the past month. We tried to imagine how she felt; not how we would feel in her shoes. We thought carefully about what she was telling us. Was there a hidden meaning? Ignoring what we thought may or may not be the issues she faced we tried to understand what she felt might be the biggest challenges. What was she hoping for in contacting us?
Then we started to write our response. We worked out how we wanted to respond and as we wrote we thought very carefully about how she might read it. What meaning was she likely to give to our words? How would she experience them? Was that what we wanted to convey?
I believe business should take the same time and care with their corporate communications.
And if you haven’t got the time to do it right, that doesn’t mean you can leave your communications until later. Saying nothing says something loud and clear!