The new rules of crisis communication and why they apply to you

Crisis communication is a fascinating subject – and there’s no shortage of current material to put under the microscope. Cricket Australia, banks, KFC, data breaches – you could spend weeks pulling this stuff apart.

This week at Mumbrella360 – Australia’s biggest media and marketing conference – I had the opportunity to share a stage with some of the country’s leading minds on communicating when it really hits the fan.

The audience was made up of communicators and business leaders from all sectors. Regardless of where they were from, there were universal head nods about the key elements that now govern how any business or organisation must respond when a crisis cripples normal operations. Here are the points that stood out for me:

Respond quickly and slowly

When a catastrophic incident or action hurls you into the headlines for all the wrong reasons, you can’t spend a day deliberating about what to say. Waaay back in the day, we used to talk about the Golden 24 Hours – how to carefully craft your response and release it for maximum impact. Then it was the Golden Hour.

In today’s Twitter Time, an hour is a luxury. Every person out there is a 24-hour live broadcast channel – or as US communication expert Barie Carmichael puts it, “today’s web-enabled auditors of corporate behaviour can create a global movement when their expectations are not met.”

The swiftness of your initial responses sets the tone for your engagement in the entire crisis response. You won’t have all the details, and you can bet others in your business will be urging you to wait, but delaying can be disastrous. Someone else will fill that communication vacuum and they’ll probably know less about the situation tha you. It’s important to at least:

  • Say what’s happened (to the best of your knowledge at the time)
  • Express empathy in acknowledging those impacted
  • Say what’s happening right now
  • Say what’s likely to happen next

While this isn’t exactly a crisis (more an incident that could have had serious consequences), here’s an example of a media report and a swift response by Transport for NSW:

Picture2.png
Picture3.png

While all this rapid responding is playing out, you must also be formulating more considered communication based on deeper research into the crisis. This is the meat on your communication skeleton; the next layering of messages for the network of stakeholders (those who are directly impacted by or who can impact your business) who will need more detail, communicated through channels directly to them.

Communication happens in tandem with the operational response

Someone in the audience at Mumbrella360 commented that the hashtag #PRfail, which inevitably appears after a major public mishap, should be changed to #leadershipfail – a great reminder that people often confuse the communication response with the actual response to the crisis. Just because a disaster erupts on social or traditional media doesn’t mean the communications department is responsible for solving the problem. 

The organisation as a whole needs to own the crisis and take responsibility for addressing it and recovering from it. Communication will, no doubt, be a huge part of that – but it’s not the only response. Gone are the days (if they ever existed) when a crisis could be made to disappear through spin.

An effective crisis response starts from the inside. Identify the root of the problem and fix it fast – all the while, keeping the world updated on what you’re doing.

KFC’s Great Chicken Crisis in the UK – when it ran out of chook- has been applauded as a great example of how to respond to a business-crippling disaster. Yes, the communication response was awesome – but that wouldn’t have amounted to much if the company didn’t also quickly address the problem and get chicken to its stores quickly – even using some innovative warehousing methods to do it.

Picture1.png

Crisis communication planning has changed

In the past, when we had a relatively limited number of communication channels, it was somewhat easier to predict and plan for the types of crises that might erupt. Today, the variables are endless.

One client embroiled in a recent crisis admitted they “threw their crisis communication plan out the window” because the nature of the issue was something they’d never encountered before and couldn’t have predicted.

A rigid crisis communication plan is no longer effective. In its place, have rock-solid, agreed principles for how you will respond, for example;

  • Your business commits to communicating honestly and authentically at all times
  • You’ll issue your first response within 15 minutes followed by rolling updates
  • You will use plain, understandable language
  • You will act in the interests of those impacted by the crisis
  • You know up-front who your key spokespeople will be, and they are trained and ready

As we discussed at the conference, it’s also critical that your basic processes are in place; your media contacts are up to date, you can find key operational people quickly, and you’ve got easy access to all your social media platforms. These sound obvious, but not everyone takes the time to address them. 

The crisis communication landscape has changed drastically, but some of the principles go back centuries. No business is immune to a crisis. Be ready and stay ready; and if/when it happens to you, use authenticity as your guide in responding

crisis.jpg

How looking below the surface of social media will make you a better communicator

Are you finding it tough sharing your message in a very crowded world? Whether you run a small business, represent an organisation or want to increase your personal profile, it can be a frustrating process because everyone else is trying to do the same thing in the same space.

Over the last week I had the privilege of convening two events for communication professionals. Listening to the speakers who joined me on stage, I was reminded of some important principles  as we all struggle to get traction in a busy digital environment.

1.     Spread the word on social, but don’t neglect your own assets

David Pembroke from contentgroup made the point that it's dangerous to put all your eggs in the social media basket.

Actually, his analogy was less about eggs and more about building a house. As he put it, “you wouldn’t build a house on rented land”.

It's a reminder to develop content and spread your message through channels you own and control - like your website. Then, you're free to take advantage of the incredible range of social media tools out there, and point people back to your mother-ship. It's your source of truth - a place where you can reinforce your key messages and correct misinformation.

2.     Be at the top of the content creation chain

Editorial expert Stuart Howie reminded us of the power of thinking like a journalist (even an old journo like me needed this reminder).

Each of us is now a publisher; if we can operate with a "newsroom mindset", where we’re originating valuable content and spreading it through multiple channels, we’re going to have a proactive advantage.

If you’re a subject matter expert - or your organisation has expertise on a particular topic - don’t wait to be asked for your opinion. Take the initiative and be the content creator, then find ways to make your valuable message known. This isn’t empty spin or marketing hustle. You're creating genuine high-value material that will benefit others.

3.     If you seek the truth, strive to be truthful

Truth and trust specialist Elly Johnson gave everyone a wake-up call by pointing out that each of us tells numerous lies every day, whether we realise it or not. Most of these little porkies aren’t dangerous or destructive ("Sorry I'm late, the traffic was terrible..."), but a better habit is to monitor and weed out white lies.

If you want others to see you as credible - and if you want to reduce the number of lies people tell you - it starts with honest self-reflection and a commitment to being more truthful.

It’s a sad reality that lies and scandals dominate much online communication. A study released this year by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that false information on Twitter travels six times faster than the truth, and reaches far more people! We can play our own small part in trying to combat that, by being 100% committed to truth. 

The world of communication has changed radically even in the last few years - and it's light years from what it looked like a decade ago. While it can be fun and challenging trying to keep up with technology, it’s the principles lying beneath that provide the real insights into human behaviour. Those who take the time to understand those principles will have an edge in this competitive  environment.

IMG_7167.jpg

How to start a conversation that can transform lives

This week I’ve had the privilege of speaking at three events as part of the R U OK? movement. This cause has built up a huge profile around Australia, most notably for R U OK? Day in September, but many businesses embrace the concept all year round.

It’s a simple idea: reminding people about the importance of having a conversation, particularly at challenging times. The right word at the right time really can change a life.

One of my presentations was in the financial services sector. It’s no secret that at the moment staff in those businesses are under enormous public pressure. While the senior leaders respond in the glare of the Royal Commission spotlight, regular staff are sometimes the forgotten casualties.

Having worked in government agencies in the media spotlight for all the wrong reasons, I know how stressful it can be to represent a business that’s struggling with its reputation. It’s impossible to go to a social gathering and mention where you work without half an hour of questioning or unsettling conversation.

The R U OK? message reminds us that personal struggles don’t just come from relationship or money issues. Changes in our work environment can cause a significant amount of stress which can rock us to our very core. If there are people around you who seem to be struggling for whatever reason, opening up a connection - however brief - can really count.

The four R U OK? steps are simple: seek out the person and ask them how they're going; listen without judging; encourage them to take action and check in with them later.

Being the one who makes the connection can seem daunting; especially if you don't know them well or generally lack confidence. A simple three-step framework can help.

1.     Plan

If you had to make a major presentation you'd probably spend time planning and preparing, yet most of us don't put the same planning into individual conversations. In any interaction where the stakes are higher than social chat, have your first words and your key message ready. Things might change - you can’t, of course, control how the other person responds - but being planned in your approach makes a big difference to how you feel on the day.

It’s important to be aware of your frame of mind. Often we talk ourselves out of feeling confident because we’re thinking about a previous situation where a conversation didn’t go so well. Simply acknowledge that, and leave it at the door. This is a new day and a new conversation. Approach it with fresh eyes.

2.     Clarity

Have a clear picture of what you want the outcome of the conversation to be. Thee other person has a big stake in how it plays out, but if you can keep your eye on the main prize ( and maybe that’s simply to let them know you’re thinking about them), you’re more likely to stay focused and not get sidetracked by nerves or other distracting thoughts.

3.     It’s about them

This is important for all communication, and particularly for conversations where you want to make sure someone is OK. Take the focus off you and put it wholly on them and what they need, right in that moment.

Some of the most powerful words I ever heard came from a father who had just lost his son to suicide. He stood at the boy’s funeral, gazing out on rows of his son’s school mates in their  uniforms. He carefully looked each of them in the eye and said, “Please don’t do this. Whatever might be going on, there is always someone who cares. Please don’t do this."

What an incredible act of courage in that most difficult moment. I often wonder what impact those words had on those boys over the years. Maybe someone in that church needed to hear those words right then and there.

You can never know the true impact of every conversation you have, but know this: your words matter and so do the connections you form. In this world where we’ve never been more connected though technology, we risk losing our human connections. You can make a difference  by being the one who starts the conversation.

Slide14.jpg

How one experience - and multiple stories - can lift your communication game

As you go about your day, it's easy to assume the people around you are having the same experience as you in each situation you encounter. I was reminded this week that's simply not the case.

I caught up with two colleagues for drinks; professional women I didn't know well. We chatted over happy hour cocktails, and the conversation for some reason turned to the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

It was fascinating that all three of us had specific experience at those Olympics - but those experiences were very different.

One had the task of wrangling the 2000 musicians who accompanied the athletes' parade at the opening ceremony. She painted an amazing picture of the master conductor, harnessed into a cherry picker, coordinating the music high above the Olympic stadium as three separate bands played music tailor-made for each country.

It took 52 buses and five semi-trailers to transport the musicians and instruments to the stadium from their rehearsal space at Bathurst, west of Sydney. 

My second colleague, a French-speaking Canadian, had been minder to the team from the Republic of the Congo - a handful of athletes and officials. She was their shadow; living in the Olympic village and mixing it with high profile athletes from around the world. When Muhammed Ali visited the athletes’ village he noticed her and called her over. She got to speak to him and hold his hand.

When she went to say good-bye to her athletes at the airport, one was missing. He’d decided to stay in Australia off the grid - she got calls from the federal police for a long time afterwards asking if she’d had any contact from him.

My experience was different again, as an announcer at the hockey stadium. I got my mouth around some tongue-twister names as I introduced the athletes and called the highlights of the games in front of more than 20,000 people.

It struck the three of us that while we had a shared experience, the details were vastly different. It's interesting to remember this and apply it to your daily conversations and interactions.

When you’re having a discussion with an individual or group, you’ll take your communication to a new level if you stay aware that everyone in that interaction will see it differently, based on their individual experience.

You might be in the same room, but you could be globes apart when it comes to interpreting the message. Keep that in mind and you’ll build better connections,  get more collaboration and your communication experiences will be richer.

Outstanding communicators know the world doesn’t look the same for everyone. To truly be  effective, make the encounter about them - from their viewpoint - not about you.  Your reality is your own construct and the same applies to everyone else.

How can you bring this awareness to your next conversation or meeting? Take a broader view of the perspectives of others, and you'll get enhanced results.

shutterstock_2483820.jpg

Why standing out doesn't mean shouting the loudest

Getting your message across has never been a bigger task.

I saw a great presentation the other day from marketing expert Paul McCarthy; he opened by asking everyone in the room to shout the name of their business at the same time.

The noise was piercing and, of course, you couldn’t tell one voice from another. Paul looked at us and said, “Welcome to the marketplace”.

It was a memorable way to be reminded there’s plenty of competition out there - whether you're a business owner vying for clients or someone looking to boost their career.

That got me thinking about what it takes to stand out in today's reputation economy, where everyone is striving for the same prize - attention.  

Some approach this by shouting louder or trying to fill the spaces between the other voices by telling everyone how great they are. But that’s hardly a powerful way to get noticed. It’s more likely you’ll encourage people to switch off.

How do you go from being one of the crowd to standing out from it? This model is one way to build a stand-out culture for your organisation or yourself.

1.     Get clear on why you're doing what you do

No-one will buy you if they don’t know what you're offering. It’s worth taking time to really get to know the essence of your brand. What do you or your business stand for? Not what’s in your vision statement, but at the very core? When people interact with you, what do you leave behind?

Knowing the essence of your brand means better decisions. When you have options, it's easier to know which choice aligns more closely with what you actually stand for. When negative issues arise, you can quickly assess their urgency.

Aim for clarity and simplicity in all your communication.

2.     Don't operate in a vaccuum

Stand-out people - and their businesses - are switched on. They know what’s happening around them and can quickly identify what's likely to have an impact on them. That enables them to seize opportunities and address problems as they arise.

Stand-outs are ahead of trends and able to anticipate pain points before they get worse. When something isn’t right, they’re the ones people turn to for advice.

How much time do you spend in your own world, compared with considering the bigger picture and what it means for you and your organisation?

3.     Be great at connecting with others

To be a stand-out you must be exceptional when it comes to human interaction. In an age when we can dash off a text in an instant, we as a race risk losing the art of person-to-person connection.

Practise and cherish those skills; make a point of focusing on rapport-building whenever you’re in a conversation or meeting. Do it deliberately and notice what happens. Treat every communication interaction as part of a relationship, however brief it might be.

Even though we have the ability to network with a global audience, the people who know us best still have the greatest potential impact on our business or career success.

4.     Get your systems right

You know you're already a good operator. You have solid communication skills and you’re talented at your job or in your business. What super-charges that performance from good to stand-out is using proven frameworks, templates and processes to interact in an even more powerful way.

Once you're clear on your purpose, increase your awareness of what's going on around you and build your skills in connecting with people, the last piece is to take a systematic approach.

Be clear on what you want to achieve and plan each step to get you there. Learn what's worked for others; use templates for writing better emails, frameworks for having more effective conversations or delivering presentations to meetings or larger audiences.

Whether at a business or individual level, standing out is more than shouting loudly to make yourself heard. It takes time and a multi-pronged approach. 

What are you putting in practice today to make sure you stand out tomorrow?

shutterstock_492535303.jpg

Get the first part right and you'll have an awesome day

His smile was as wide as the doorway I'd just walked through as I arrived at a major corporate headquarters. As I approached the concierge desk he made perfect eye contact and his grin broadened. "Welcome!" he invited.

I was taken aback. I've walked into many office blocks early in the day to set up for a workshop. Those behind the concierge desk are usually well-meaning folk but they're busy and distracted and give a cursory greeting.

This guy was on a mission to make me feel at home - and it absolutely worked.

That glowing welcome had a profound impact on my day. I immediately felt positive about the session I was about to run. I didn’t realise it then, but for the next hours I channelled that man in all my interactions.

That afternoon as I checked into my hotel, I felt myself consciously making friendly eye contact with the young women at the counter. I smiled and asked how her day was. She was momentarily confused, then she returned my smile and we had an animated conversation.

When I asked for the Wi-Fi password she looked embarrassed, then said “Oh, we normally don’t have free Wi-Fi but I’ll tell you what, I’m going to give you free Wi-Fi for your whole stay”.

It continued the next day when I left the hotel and checked in for my next flight. I knew my bag - full of training material - was way heavier than the airline's baggage limit. Again channelling my concierge friend, I strode to the counter, looked the woman directly in the eye with a smile and opened with, “I’m so sorry but I think my bag might be over the limit”.

She beamed back and said, “Well, let’s see." The scales showed the bag was, in fact, more than a few kilos over. She consulted her computer, looked back at me and said conspiratorially, “Look, the flight’s not full so we'll let this through. It’s okay.” I’d been expecting to have to pay extra bagging costs - bonus!

What a great reminder that how we show up to people is how they reflect back to us. It's amazing what opportunities open up when we begin on a positive note.

One of people's biggest fears in this digital age is interacting with another human. You can stand out by approaching every communication opportunity with confidence and enthusiasm.

Who can you connect with today to brighten their world? It’s a win-win. It costs you nothing, and you'll reap plenty in return. But most of all, you'll make another person feel good - and you might even inspire them to pay it forward.

shutterstock_376687903.jpg

Stop being held back by geek-speak

Have you ever had a conversation with someone and come away thinking ‘Wow, they are truly extraordinary’?

That happened to me this week. I was meeting with a technical expert – this guy is at the forefront of a very specific field. I was talking to him about how to encourage others in his profession to communicate more clearly.

I have to admit I was already inwardly groaning, thinking we’d be getting into geek-speak with me having to mentally translate everything he said before I could process it. Turns out, I had it all wrong!

I encountered a rare individual; someone totally immersed in his technical field with all its jargon – and at the same time able to communicate with such clarity I immediately knew I was communing with a kindred spirit.

He told me how frustrated he felt when others in his field deliberately hid behind big words and important-sounding language because of their fear of being accountable. He clearly understood the problems those barriers created. I was hooked!

Even better, he was looking for a way to break through the blockages and resistance of his profession, to reach a point where his colleagues could form great relationships with their clients rather than trying to avoid them.

Working with many businesses and organisations still bogged down in old forms of communication, I’m often overwhelmed by the size of the challenge in helping them communicate more clearly. My friend this week has given me new hope - and a reminder to all of us that whatever type of work you do, whatever the nature of your business, you’re a human communicating with other humans.

Get that mindset right and you’re already well on your way to being a clear and credible communicator. Remember:

Big words don’t impress; they’re likely to confuse.

The English language is full of shades of meaning. Think of any concept and you can probably come up with five words or phrases to describe it. Some language will be simple, some won’t.

It can be tempting to choose bigger, more complicated words under the illusion they’ll make you sound credible and impressive - but you’ll create the opposite effect. Do you know anyone who has time to plough through long-winded emails or reports? No, neither do I.

Keep it short and clear. I’m not suggesting you take short cuts; you still need to be precise and sometimes a longer word is the best option. However, if you have the choice between a long word or expression and a shorter one that means the same thing, dare to be brief.

Great communication is based on great relationships.

Whenever you interact with anyone – whether it’s a one-line email, a short phone call or a deep and meaningful conversation - it’s part of an ongoing relationship. It needs to be treated with the importance it deserves.

Rather than firing off a message in a mad rush, think about the person on the receiving end. How can you build your relationship with them? How much more effective will your communication be if you’ve built a level of trust? That trusting connection is the conduit that makes your interactions flow smoothly.

Take every opportunity to communicate in person. Don’t revert to email because it’s what you’ve always done.

Highly technical individuals are people too.

My meeting this week was an important wake-up about the risks of stereotyping. I turned up thinking this guy would have no people skills, but he was the one teaching me some lessons. His combination of highly technical skills and clear words made him a communication powerhouse.

As our world becomes even more digitally driven, the ability to relate human to human will be critical. Those people with technical brilliance and outstanding communication skills will have the world at their feet.

If you don’t think you’re an outstanding communicator now, you can start to address that.

These are learned skills and there are plenty of tools out there to help you. Here’s just one to give your email writing a boost. If you’d like a quick and easy tool that will make an immediate difference to the way you write emails, you’re welcome to download my IDEA Email Framework.

 

shutterstock_262414820.jpg

How to shine in the spotlight, every time.

Last week I coached a client's senior staff team on presenting to camera, so they could move large chunks of their staff induction sessions into an online format.

If you’ve ever had to stand and deliver to a camera, and you’re not used to it, you’ll understand how daunting it can be.

As I watched people cope with the pressure of changing their approach from talking to a group of humans to speaking directly into a lens with bright lights in their face, I was reminded of the important communication principles that were being amplified before my eyes.

IMG_3466 (1).jpg

Most presenters came in expecting a perfect take the first time around, but at the same time they were nervous in front of the camera so their performance was far from flawless. I had to get them past that need for a 10/10 delivery and focus on finding a way to connect with their imaginary audience.

When you’re faced with a tough communication situation - whether that’s a critical conversation, a high-stakes meeting or a presentation to a large audience or on camera - these points can mean the difference between soaring and tanking.

1.     Be yourself.

People will forgive you for a few ums and ahs; what they won’t forgive is you making no effort to engage with them. We know that attention spans are shrinking, so any interaction needs to be super-memorable or your audience's’ fingers will be inching toward their phones.

Double your focus on making a connection. As the authors of the book Crucial Conversations stress, ‘Start with heart’. Yes, you need to have your content covered, but that effort will be wasted if you don’t engage. Put conscious effort into making great eye contact and find a way to build rapport from the outset. Don’t apologise for who you are, just get on and be a great version of yourself.

2.     Get rid of “I’m not good enough”.

I was listening to a terrific podcast this week by Suzy Jacobs where she described her first efforts at podcast recording. The first few times were far from perfect, but she was able to listen and say to herself ‘Well, that didn’t suck!’ This was a breakthrough because in the past, she would have told herself ‘That’s not good enough’ and had to do it all over again.

I’m not suggesting you strive for mediocrity, but when it comes to having an important communication encounter, recognise that annoying little voice that whispers "I’m not good enough", look the sucker in the eyes and give it the day off. Back yourself, put your focus on the people you’re talking to, and let your skills and capability do the rest.

3.     Be prepared to stretch.

Standing in front of a camera amid blazing lights is a good definition of getting out of your comfort zone, but any pressure communication situation can be a stretch experience. Take time to prepare. Think through the key points you need to convey. Rehearse them out loud rather than just in your head. Leave your own baggage at the door when you go into the meeting or presentation.

Don’t judge your results on whether your conversation was word perfect, assess what you actually achieved. What did you want to walk away with, and did you get there? And whatever happens, don’t beat yourself up; treat it as a learning experience.

Every one of my on-camera performers last week came away apologising and saying ‘That was terrible’ or something similar. In reality, their performances were really solid. Most of us view ourselves harshly compared to how the rest of the world really sees us. Be a little kinder to yourself.

By practising your communication skills you'll build influence and credibility. Along the way you’ll create even stronger relationships at work and at home.

Are your emails completely missing the mark and costing you big-time?

Have you ever received an email that was totally confusing?  I'm sure you’re not alone there! Insurance companies, government agencies and councils have been culprits in that department - but individuals can be just as guilty.

In our extremely busy lives, it’s so easy to dash off an email to a potential customer, an important client or a team member without giving it much thought. Remember, every piece of communication - including even the most inconsequential email - is part of a crucial relationship with whoever you're sending it to. Send an email that’s not clear and you risk one of these results:

1.     Confusion

Your reader might have to come back to you with questions, and that wastes their time and yours. If you’d got your point across clearly the first time, there'd be no need for time-sucking clarification questions. 

shutterstock_389818033.jpg

2.     Anger

I get hot under the collar when I receive an email that doesn't make sense - how about you? It’s easy to then think less of the person or organisation that sent you the email - after all, if they can't make sense when they write, are they really worth doing business with?

Not taking care with your emails can damage your reputation - and that can have far-reaching consequences. When someone receives an email from you, you want them to feel enthusiastic about opening it - as opposed to groaning and hitting the delete key.  

3.     Speaking of deleting, the third consequence of bad emails is that your message is ignored.

That can mean lost opportunities and even more serious ramifications. Let's say you send a message because you need someone to take specific action. They ignore it because it’s too hard to read - you haven't been clear enough. They never get the important message about the action, so they don't do what's required. That could lead to a major problem for them, and for you. Make no mistake: unclear communication creates risk.

On the flip side, it's easy to structure your emails so your reader gets your message. I call it the IDEA framework.

I is for Introduction.

Start with a friendly acknowledgement; whether it's "Hi..", "Dear..." or some other greeting, make it appropriate to the audience and the situation.

Your first short paragraph is all about making a connection and setting the context for your message. Don’t assume the other person can read your mind. Spell out what the email will cover, for example,

 "Hi John,

I’m touching base to let you know about …”

D is for Detail.

Give more context so they get the "why" of what's coming next. Don’t just plunge into what you want from them. Help them understand why you’re asking or communicating your particular message. Keep this brief; one short paragraph.

E is for Explain.

State your position and very clearly outline what needs to happen next. 

A is for Action.

This is where you specify the action step which might simply be “Please respond to me by 4pm tomorrow.” - or it might be asking them to register for an event, provide particular information or any number of other options.

One of the biggest failings with emails is that often the writer doesn’t make it clear what they want the reader to do with the information. If there’s no intended action, what’s the point of sending the email? Make the action clear and it’s much more likely your recipient will get the message and do what needs to be done.

Another thing; sign off your email in a way that builds engagement - even if you've just delivered unpalatable news. I like to sign off an email with "Kind regards," then my first name, followed by my signature block. "Thanks in advance" can also be effective, and there are many other variations. Avoid ending the email with your signature graphic and nothing else; that's like slamming the door without saying good-bye!

Consider also that email mightn't be the best communication channel for your message. Emails are fraught with danger because the recipient doesn’t have the benefit of your tone or body language and can only try to read between the lines if they’re not sure what you mean. If the information is in any way sensitive, urgent or controversial, sit down with the person face to face or at least pick up the phone. In any communication exchange, the channel you choose will have a big impact on the outcome.

Every email matters. Every word within every email matters. Try the IDEA framework and see if it works for you. I'd love to hear your feedback.

Why skills that stand the test of time matter even more in today's disrupted world

Are you overwhelmed by social media?
 
I don’t just mean as a consumer of it – keeping up with the daily onslaught of posts in your various news feeds. I’m also referring to the pressure of creating content that gets you noticed (for the right reasons!)
 
I was listening to a presentation by business and mindset expert Pat Mesiti where he said “If you use yesterday’s methods in today’s world you’ll have no tomorrow.”
 
Wise words, and I get where he’s coming from. I also believe you can’t rely solely on the methods of today and tomorrow for your communication.

grand central station.png

When I visited Grand Central Station in New York City (if you haven’t been there, make it a goal to go!!) I was intrigued by the way they’d set up the Apple Store. It wasn’t like a conventional shop, with walls around it. It had all the trimmings of an Apple Store but it was laid out in the open, within the walls of the station structure.
 
Here you have a symbol of all things high-tech, the way of the future, staffed by bright-eyed millennials, operating in this majestic old building steeped in tradition and history.
 
Then it struck me: that’s how we need to be when we communicate!
 
If you want to engage more effectively with your customers, team, manager, partner or anyone in your world, remember this: by all means use all the digital tools available to you, but never forget the core qualities of an outstanding communicator.
 
These qualities have stood the test of time – just like a grand old railway station - and they’re not going away regardless of how many new social media channels emerge in the coming years.
 
They include:

  • Being honest, whatever the stakes
  • Having a clear message and being able to express it
  • Knowing your audience and caring about what they need

 Are you so consumed with the whirlwind of the digital age that you’ve let some of those tried and tested qualities slip away?
 
I encourage you to focus on how you speak to others and how well you listen.

Take a step back and read over some of your recent emails: are they clear and precise, or have you confused your reader?

When you walk into a room, do you have the confidence and credibility to strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know?
 
Old style communication skills matter. They matter a lot in today’s social-media driven world. Get those right, and the rest will fall into place.