In a world where everyone is competing for attention, it’s becoming more and more challenging to cut through the clutter. Now, more than ever, it is important to be well equipped to communicate the best messages, through the right channels, measured against well-considered organisational and communications-specific goals – in short, to become an effective strategic communicator.
Here are four tips we have learnt over time, which we hope will set you on your way to communications success:
- Reach out and align interests. Whether you’re communicating to a member of the media, a client, a government representative or a conference, figure out what the other party’s goals, projects and agendas are, then highlight where your interests meet theirs. By establishing common ground, you will be able to demonstrate that you have your stakeholders’ interests at heart and let them feel like you are on the same team, working for a common vision.
- Listen well, and listen closely. Continuing from the previous point, many of us think communicating = talking. While this is true to an extent, it is equally important to be able to listen to our stakeholders as well as talk to them. Strategic communicators listen actively and empathetically to understand their stakeholders’ needs, and respond strategically.
- Communicate effectively. It is impossible to be a strategic communicator without knowing how to communicate. When you talk, present and counsel, you need to have the right stature, tone of voice and confidence to command the attention of your audience and have the presence needed for people to want to talk to you. Charisma is vital. Make sure you’re delivering a clear message by using strong and simple language, and avoiding excess jargon. The same goes for writing – simplicity wins.
- Watch what you say and how you say it. When we speak, other people “read” our voices and actions in addition to listening to our words. This is a very important point to consider, as it often determines how others receive our messages and how they perceive us as communicators. When pitching a story to a journalist, be mindful of how you’re talking – monitor your timing and pace, tone and voice inflection. When communicating face to face, pay attention to your posture, physical movements, eye contact and psychological presence. The secret to becoming a strategic communicator is to become more sensitive to not only the body language and non-verbal cues of others, but also your own.
Communication takes effort. When you practise good communication, notice the effect. After all, being an effective strategic communicator is the difference between doing communications stuff, and doing the right communications stuff.