Communicating during challenging times…
- Emotional connection – in challenging times you often require more from people for less (less resource, less budget, less reward), so it is critical that they feel inspired to put their heart into driving results.
- Clarity of business strategy – it is imperative that people really understand what the business strategy is – where you are focusing, why and their role within it and that you keep reinforcing it.
- Messaging – use tools and techniques that bring your business strategy to life and make it ‘stick’. Storytelling and case studies for example (and always try and communicate in the local language).
- Freedom –give people freedom to inspire creativity and innovation – during challenging times you often need more ‘thinking outside the box’.
- Visibility of leadership – leaders need to be visible, approachable and responsive. People need to believe we’re all on the same team.
- Humility – it is important you convey a sense of taking responsibility, and that you inspire trust despite not necessarily having all the answers…
- Channels – more than ever the business needs to embrace a full mix of communication media and embrace the channels that offer immediacy, two/multi-way communication and personality.
- Reward and recognition – while pay rises and bonuses may not be top of the agenda in challenging times, people still need to understand they are recognised for their contribution. The R&R agenda should be re-visited to ensure people understand what they are getting from the business (development on the job, career growth, taking on more responsibility etc). And recognition should be at the heart of the agenda – and it is often the little things that can make a difference.
- Vision and values – more than ever it is critical that the business stays true to its vision and values. This can be difficult – leaders and managers may need reminding and to be supported to live them.
- Focus, focus, focus – focus on what is right and important to drive results, remove the clutter!
And finally… don’t assume you know how people are thinking and feeling. Ensure you have mechanisms in place to really know… and respond.
The top ten ground rules for media interviews
- Listen carefully to the question – this is not as obvious as it seems. Most interviewees are too busy thinking of their answer to listen closely to the question. Having answered it, always look to ‘bridge’ to a point in your own favour.
- Answer the question without waffling – the question deserves as direct an answer as you can muster. Get to the heart of the matter. It’s the best way to get your message across. Don’t be evasive, it shows.
- If you don’t know or don’t want to answer a question, simply say so! – opting out by saying ‘I don’t know, but I’ll find out’ is perfectly valid, but you must be as good as your word and follow through with your promise. Occasionally there will be one or more reasons why you choose not to answer a question. Respond directly ‘I’m sorry but I am not in a position to give that information’ –and, most importantly, explain why.
- ‘No comment’ means ‘You are absolutely right!’ – not only is ‘no comment’ a high handed way of dealing with any question, it is almost always a dead give-away that the premise of the questioner is absolutely correct.
- Don’t be intimidated by a questioner – if interrupted in mid-stream, or contradicted, stand your ground! Politely but firmly tell the interviewer that you would like to finish your answer before dealing with another question. Make sure you deal with the original question in a direct, concise way.
- Say the most important things first, and then expand – it is the point you make first that will be remembered, and hopefully quoted. Any necessary supportive reasoning should therefore follow the point.
- Only use humour if you are sure of your audience – humour can work in an experienced interviewee’s hands but remember humour should never be used at the expense of the audience or the questioner. Using humour with an international audience can be very dangerous!
- Stay within your own field of knowledge – don’t hazard an answer if the question is clearly outside your area of expertise. Decline on the grounds that you are not familiar with the subject. Even qualifying yourself as a non-expert and offering ‘an opinion’ may backfire.
- If you don’t want a statement quoted, don’t make it – ‘Off the record’ has a way of coming to haunt you in the form of other questions or in the form of providing a peg on which a story angle can be developed.
- Let the interviewer worry about ‘dead air’ – when you have answered the question, stop. If the interviewer is slow with his next question he may be trying to tempt you into saying more than you intended. Don’t be tempted.
Content is king – top ten tips for delivering compelling and engaging communications
- Sound understanding of the target audience/project – whether from in-depth research or breaking into a new market, every project is unique demanding a unique positioning and suitable creative platform to appeal and compel.
- Clear business objectives – so many projects fail due to the fact they are trying to achieve everything, this simply cannot be done you need to prioritise and be specific.
- Upfront and Poignant – find an angle for the communications and ensure it is upfront, creatively articulated and substantiated. On average people will spend three seconds reading the first two lines of a computer screen and then move on.
- Separate the wheat from the chaff – people see through clever words. Eight year old children study communications at primary school. We are dealing with an intelligent if not savvy fast moving generation. Fast at delivering and receiving communications. Dissemination of content is key to ensure you miss nothing and engage your target.
- Do not under any circumstances do a ‘kitchen sink’ – if it is not relevant then leave it out. We live in an increasingly busy time and people are time deficient. Stay ahead by remaining concise and relevant.
- Excellent writing skills – attention to detail is inferred through superb understanding of the English language through both use of grammar and style of writing. Why would anyone trust a company that can’t spell, often it results from a lack of attention to detail, rather than incompetence, both however do not reflect well.
- Be original – intelligent thinking needs to be demonstrated not inferred, a different approach is required to engage and motivate.
- Ensure focus is benefit led – keep the target at the core of your thinking poignant communication needs to be relevant. Often what engages you into the subject may not be interesting to the end audience. Between us we have spent hours in discussions with technical product heads on why a proposition cannot rely solely on a product feature.
- Sound propositions and excellent briefs – to get the best out of your agencies, staff and peers you need sound thinking, clearly articulated, preferably in a written format. We all understand nuances and words differently. This approach also avoids hiding behind clichés, smoke and mirrors and ensures substance behind the thinking
- Inject emotion and ensure rational substantiation – powerful communications are wrapped up with emotion and substance. For example the Scottish ‘No’ campaign was as much wrapped up in the emotion ‘don’t split the nation by taking the Great out of Britain’, as the rational substantiation for ‘No’. You have not thought this through in enough detail? What currency are you going to use? How will exchange rates work? Will you automatically qualify for EU membership?