There are five integral factors for communications success. Five spokes, if you will, that move the communications wheel forward with momentum.
- The Message: Drill down on what the main message is and make it stick. The right message is always simple, consistent and clear. It is never padded, never cumbersome, never sounds like spin. People can see through all this stuff a mile way. Spin is merely words without action, for instance. One of the most effective messages in corporate America was IBM’s Think mantra. It was easy to grasp, relevant, had traction and meaning. One word with powerful meaning.
- The Messengers: Messengers are those who naturally repeat and clearly remind people of the message. We are no longer living in a world of mass media. Those halcyon days are gone forever. Instead, we reside in a world of mass niches – niches that have been fueled by the explosion of digital media. Having multiple messengers, versus a single messenger, is essential when announcing positive or negative news. It is a total team approach. It requires discipline, focus, clarity and a core group of people, in unison, saying what needs to be genuinely transmitted in a dialogue, not monologue, fashion.
- Timing: News told too early or late, whether inside or outside a company, can invariably impact how it is received. Be on time with your message. A simple way to ensure that this happens is ask when is the best time to say what needs to be said? Really think it through. For example, frequently, negative news is best communicated at the end of the week. Other times, it is an earlier-in-the-week message — know the difference between the two options. All in all, use your timing wisely.
- Tone: This one is often overlooked. Don’t be tone deaf! Tone is all about how you sound when you communicate to others — happy, sad, serious, excited, gracious, contrite, etc. The best communicators control tone like a volume dial. They know when to turn it down and turn it up and, when called upon, push the mute button. Great speakers, like presidents Kennedy and Reagan, were masterful at using tone to communicate effectively. It was their secret weapon. The right tone leads to messaging home-runs.
- Place: Think carefully about where you need to communicate the message. Imagine if President Lincoln had not given the Gettysburg’s address in Gettysburg or Reagan’s dramatic “Mr. Gorbachev tear down this wall” speech was not delivered in front of the stark Berlin Wall. If you have an important message you need to hammer home, think ahead about where this place needs to be. Have others chime in with their opinions.
The message, messengers, tone, timing and place. These are the spokes to keep the wheel moving in the right direction. Embrace the five and your communications will come alive.