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rules

Good communication can vary

So what is good communication?

I’m sure there would be many answers to this, but generally we mean being able to effectively give our message to another person (s).

That being the case, how do we classify something as good communication and set rules for good communications?

Communication impediments

Iconic person listening via a megaphone

Good communication requires good listening as well as using good speaking techniques.

While there are some basics that help with clear communications face to face, such as making eye contact, not interrupting and being polite, such things are not always possible and we may need to work around them.

Today I came across a blog post about communicating face to face and I was surprised and somewhat horrified by one of the tips given. Basically, the writer suggested that you should avoid stammering or stuttering as it can hinder clear communication. He did not allow that it was unavoidable for some people and implied it was just a behaviour they were choosing to exhibit.

There are impediments for some people in conventional communicating – blind people can’t meet your eyes, deaf people may focus on your lips instead of your eyes, someone with Tourette’s syndrome or Asperger’s may seem impolite and various people (including stammerers) may be harder to understand.

And yes it may be easier for us if those people did follow the ‘rules’ of good communicating, but they can’t so we have to learn to be patient and understanding. I found it insulting that this writer included ‘stop stammering’ as a means of communications.

Have you come across examples of people setting communication rules that are excluding certain groups of people? Or people with rigid ideas of what good communicating look like?

Media release quotation marks part ii

Last week I wrote about a media release not using quotation marks correctly. Unfortunately, I have just read another release from the same PR company (written for one of their clients) and they have actually misused quotation marks again – breaking different rules!

Samples of the release (identifying features adjusted for the sake of their client):

“We’re fine tuning the offer for them.” XYZ managing director Fred Nerk said.

“There’s lots of ducks that need to be lined up in terms of how the groups support the plans”.

“Now they’ve thought ‘hang on, we need to provide for this”.

The rules they don’t know are therefore…

  1. while what the person is saying may be at an end, a full stop is not used at the end of speech if it is followed by details for the speaker. Apart from anything else, they have created XYZ managing director Fred Nerk said.as a stand alone sentence which is incomplete. A correct example is ‘I am working on it now,’said Mary.
  2. punctuation goes inside the quotation marks, except if the punctuation is part of the surrounding sentence rather than part of the quoted material
  3. if a speech includes a quote, two full sets of quotation marks are required, and generally the second set will be different to the first (i.e. if one quotation mark is used, the inner set will have double quotation marks). So a correct example is “I spoke to the officer in charge who said ‘this is a major catastrophe,'” said the reporter

If we add in the incorrect spelling of the client name (yes, really!), typos and words like ‘throught’, this media release is a very poor return for the client’s money. To me it shows an absolute lack of respect to their client and is unprofessional.

Media outlets will often use a media release as the basis of any reports and they obviously don’t expect to have to spend time correcting silly errors like this. If they have two equally promising stories to run, the better presented media release is likely to win so I would be very cross if a PR company sent out a release about me in that state.

Would you expect a PR company to get the writing elements right, or would you be comfortable checking it for errors yourself?

Check the terms first

No doubt you’ve heard it before “don’t sign anything you haven’t read” – it may sound trite but it is a valuable rule legally.

I have mentioned before that I am going to the Business Mums Conference in Melbourne this weekend, and that I submitted proposals to be a speaker. Before submitting my proposals, I read the documentation about what was expected from a speaker and what I could expect in return. I had the choice there and then to decide if any of those terms were unreasonable or disagreeable to me.

Apparently, not everyone read those documents – or maybe just didn’t take them seriously – as potential speakers sent in proposals but refused to meet one or two of the terms. And the same thing happened last year. I just don’t understand how you can agree to do something with clearly set out rules and then be surprised at having to keep those rules.

The end result is that I am speaking twice at the conference! It is not too late to get your tickets and come along – book online for the whole weekend, a day or even just my session (joking – any single session can be booked, but I would love to meet you!) And if you get back to me by COB Thursday, I have some discounted booking forms I can give you.

* I am speaking about promotional articles (of which I have written a few!) and email newsletter content.

Style Guides

A style guide is simply a set of rules as to how your business produces it’s communication materials (including website content, letters, emails, marketing documents and promotional articles.)

By having a style guide, you can ensure everything you present to customers and potential customers is consistent and supports your brand. For instance, if someone reads a formal letter from you then visits your casual website, they will notice the difference and probably feel uncomfortable with it.

Style guides can be in bullet point on one page or they can be comprehensive manuals – it depends on the needs and size of the business. In fact, I have written both types for a single client as they used them for different purposes.

If you want to create a style guide, you can always start with the key points and slowly build it up as you gather further information to include.

A style sheet is a summary of a style guide that lists common words and how they are to be presented. For instance, does your business write Internet or internet? Or is Aussie acceptable or must it always be Australian?

P.S. I wrote a longer comparision betwen style guide and style sheet last Novemeber.