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I hope you find my writing and business tips and observations useful. My business and blog are dedicated to helping businesses communicate clearly and reach their potential. Read, subscribe to my newsletter, enjoy! Tash

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Clear and repeated communications

Again, I am continuing on with a discussion of the Edelman Trust Barometer from February this year. (You can read the business trust and blog trust posts for background.)

Their media release states “Swift and accountable communications: Respondents said they need to hear information 3-5 times before they believe it. Companies should inform conversations among the new influencers on blogs, in forums, and bulletin boards. Australians under 34 are twice as likely to share both positive and negative information about a company online as their older counterparts – this trend will only grow. ”

The repetition of a clear message is important in getting people to trust you (your business) and accept that message. For example, any good presenter/teacher will summarise key points at the end of a topic as that helps others absorb that information.

When planning some marketing, remembering that people like to hear a message 3 – 5 times (and many have long said 7 times) before buying it means:

  • you may not get great results from your first attempt at marketing
  • consider how you can present your message in multiple ways rather than spending your budget on one ad
  • use images and layout to enhance your message – a stronger message may need less repetition than a hidden or weak message
  • every interaction you have with people in your demographic (and beyond) can reinforce or damage that message so make sure all ads, blogs, your website, your business card and so on are consistent, professional and appropriate for the purpose

Prompt communication is important in this information age – discussing an event well afterwards must be managed carefully so it doesn’t appear you are out of date. For instance, I could write that people affected by the February 7 bushfires are rebuilding and still need support all year but just writing ‘donate to the bushfires’ now looks very old.

Blogs, emails and social media are obviously key ways to making communications immediate and relevant – which is why I find it hard to believe they aren’t trusted forms of communication.

Clear definitions…

I looked at a website today that is trying to explain technical terms to enhance their sales – a good concept of course, but if the definitions aren’t clear I think they’d be better off without them.

This is pretty much the first thing on their site:

What is “Domain Name”?
Compared with IP address, Domain Name is a character sign which is like a doorplate number on internet, it’s used to identify and orient hiberarchy of computer on internet.

Ok, English isn’t their first language, but their site is in English so it needs to be understandable in English! Even if we change ‘hiberarchy’ to ‘heirarchy’ it still doesn’t help explain a domain name – and I actually know what a domain name is!

Moral of this story – make sure a definition is easier than the term it is meant to explain! I suggest using the simplest words possible when writing  definitions so people can concentrate on the definition rather than the words you use.

 

P.S. Try my article for a longer but simpler explanation of domain names.

The value of clear communications!

I have recently being working through a training book (as a student, not a writer) and found various bits hard to understand. Luckily, I have a group of people around me who have been able to help interpret some of the questions – and I have interpreted other bits for them! I would hate to be struggling through it alone!

One question I thought I understood and prepared an answer for – it took me half an hour or so to get it finished and involved someone else getting some restricted information for me.

At the training course itself, my tutor read through my bookwork and pointed out that the question above was not correctly answered – it was asking for something else entirely. With that knowledge, I could just see what the question meant but it was a struggle! So I rewrote my answer – taking another two hours to do so.

A simpler example from the same training weekend was “Collect the names, titles and contact details for everyone in the training team.” I therefore wrote a list of names, titles and email addresses for the other  members of my team on the course (we worked in teams throughout the course.) I then realised what they really wanted was a list of the names, titles and contact details for the trainers themselves – THE training team, rather than my training team!

Clearer questions would have saved me the stress of worrying I knew what to answer, the confusion of having no clue what to answer at times and the time of having to rewrite some answers. So a very concrete example of how useful clear communications are!

Writing survey questions

Writing responses to questions in a formMy earlier post listed some examples of poor survey questions I have come across, so now here are some tips for making your survey questions effective…

  1. Know what you are preparing the survey for – and how you will use the results. By planning the results, you will know what questions you need answered and be sure to word them to get the relevant answers. For instance, if you want to know if clients prefer green or blue so you can change your corporate colours, you won’t bother asking “Do you like pink?”
  2. make each question clearly different – if someone has to read a question two or three times to see why it is different to a previous question, they are likely to  give up or answer incorrectly. Be particularly careful to not ask the positive and negative for the same point.
  3. don’t just copy the same responses for every question. Yes, it is reasonable to give responses such as excellent and poor to some questions, but not if you ask “did the book help you?” A bit of variety is more interesting and makes it more likely people will read each question properly.
  4. check questions follow on from one to the next, especially if you are using software that provides different questions depending on earlier responses. For example, if someone answers “I don’t have children” to question 1, question 2 really shouldn’t ask “how old are your children?”
  5. Always provide a response for everyone. It is frustrating for someone who can’t give any of your responses as their answer so always include every option or a way of indicating nothing applies.
  6. Make sure every question and provided response makes sense. That means read every question/response pair individually. For example, “was the presentation interesting?” works, “was the presentation informative?” works but “was the presentation expectations?” doesn’t work.
  7. every question must be simple and clear – if the question is too complicated you can’t expect useful results. Simplify questions by
    • using simple and short words as much as possible
    • divide a long question into two parts if possible
    • give responses to choose from rather than an open ended question
    • staying to the point – and keeping to your purpose
    • keeping all question short – it’s much easier to complicate 12 words than 6!
  8. Always use good grammar and spelling so people aren’t confused or distracted by your errors.
  9. Present your survey well so people will actually read and respond to your well written questions!

Ideally, prepare the questions and leave them for a couple of days. Then reread each question to make sure it makes sense and will get the answers you are after. Once you are sure the questions are workable, ask someone else (or a few someone elses) to answer the survey for you and provide feedback on questions they weren’t sure of.

A well written and prepared survey can be a very valuable tool for your business so it is worth putting the time and effort into making it as good as you possibly can.

Clear Communications

Anybody reading my blog or newsletter knows that I am passionate about helping people write clearly for their business purposes. Which I assume is why the Business Mums Network has invited me to speak at their next morning tea workshop.

The details are as follows:

Confident Communications

Who are you talking to?  The key to clear communications is keeping a focus on who you are communicating with.

This workshop will start by identifying the groups of people we may need to communicate with as a business and appreciate how each group is different and how information can be presented in different ways for best results with each group.

Monday, 26 May 2008 9:30 AM to 11:30 AM

Monash Incubator Centre, 5a Hartnett Close, Mulgrave

To register phone 03 9018 8947 or email events@businessmums.com

Click here to find out more.

Communicating with suppliers

 In a business context, most people think of clear communications in terms of their customers. But it is also important to communicate well with your suppliers.

For instance, someone I know recently ended a project because his client gave him insufficient and contradictory information. This client had prepared a brief but work done to match that brief was rejected!

Connect and communicate with all business contactsObviously communication is a two-way thing but if you make your needs straight forward it is more likely a supplier will give you what you want.

1. specify anything mandatory – e.g the logo must always be on a white background or the newsletter must be ready by the 1st of each month

2. explain your ideas – a rough sketch is ok as long as it is labelled

3. avoid jargon unless you are sure the supplier understands it the same way you do – that includes using their jargon if you aren’t sure of it yourself!

4. write or talk as if they are a customer – clearly, concisely and politely.

 

Have you had client projects where poor communications made the project a dreaded chore instead of challenging and interesting?