Will Flower

Be a Better Communicator

The following are some simple tips on communication!

The first lesson of good communication is that you need to be a great listener!  Remember, God gave us TWO ears and only ONE mouth for a reason!

Lesson #7 -  The speed of news 

The news business has always been fasted paced.  Today, the speed that news gets reported can be dizzying.  And unfortunately, the speed of reporting during a crisis can be a contributing factor to many reporting errors.  Even trusted sources like the New York Times can fall victim to the race to publish news.   The NY Times’ coverage of the shootings in Sandy Hook, Connecticut provides an example.  The Times made several enormous errors in reporting.  First, they reported on their Web site that the shooter was Ryan Lanza.  It was not.  As we know now, his brother, Adam was the gunman.  The Times also reported that the shooter was “buzzed” into the school by its principal.  Wrong.  And, the Times reported that the shooter’s mother worked at the school.  Again, wrong.  

The Times was not the only media outlet to report false information in the wake of the disaster.  Many news organizations were quick to report what they believe to be facts without checking.  Still others relied on what other news outlets were reporting only later to discover that the information was wrong.  

As a communication professional, you need to understand the speed of news and the newsroom’s desire to get it first – especially on breaking news stories.  A frenzy can develop during a crisis situation.  When it’s your job to provide information to reporters you had better get it right.  Do not be pressured into giving out information until you are sure it is accurate.  If possible, designate a single spokesperson to regularly update the media.  Keep track of what was reported and when.  Most importantly, stick to the facts that you know to be true and accurate.  Don’t speculate.  Don’t assume.  Don’t overstate or understate the situation.  Remember, your credibility and the trust of your organization is on the line.

Lesson #6.  Be Open Minded.

When communicating it is important to keep an open mind.  You will benefit by gaining additional insight and perspective into any give situation or crisis.  Don’t be judgmental.   That doesn’t mean you have to agree with other people’s ideas, values, or opinions.  It simply means that as a good communicator you do need to set aside your judgment and listen to other people.  Holding off on criticism allows others to fully express their opinions and allows you to get greater perspective.  Remember, you’re not always right.  If you have an open mind, you will be amazed at how easy communication can be and the potential for some really good…even profound connections you can make with your audiences.

Lesson #5.  Use multiple communication tools.

Communications channels are more splintered than ever and are capable of moving information very quickly. This means that communicators must use a wide variety of approaches for sending and receiving messages to and from their target audiences.  This is okay so long as there is consistency in the message.  Use technology to keep tabs on what’s being said about your project.  Respond in a unified and consistent manner (stay on message).  Proactively distribute messages, even in ‘quiet’ times (broadcast and re-broadcast). Build and maintain relationships with ALL of you audiences especially customers, employees, investors and other stakeholders.

Lesson #4:  Be efficient in your communication.  Thomas Jefferson once said "The most valued of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do."  People who craft messages that are direct and clear are valuable communicators. Having a good dose of empathy also helps!

Lesson 3:  Know your audience.  It's important to know who you are communicating with so that messages can be sent and
received.  We can't effectively speak to a room full of engineers the same way we speak with a room full of Kindergarten students even if the message is the same.

Lesson 2:  Understand that communication is a process and requires certain basic items such as a message, a common language and a way to transmit and receive the message.
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