3 keys to simple, succinct and clear communication
As word counts grow, your readers’ concentration and comprehension will slow. Try these tips to keep content nice and tidy.
When it comes to writing, there’s beauty in the basics.
Communication is about conveying information in a clear, compelling manner, which is why short and sweet almost always wins the day.
Right now, we’re all surrounded by noise, negativity and distractions. These hindrances are the bane of our work lives and among the biggest obstacles to us persuading people to think, feel or do something differently.
To craft content that cuts through the clutter, try these three ideas to keep your comms simple:
1. Get to know your audience.
Who cares if you think something’s interesting or compelling? Our communication efforts live or die by whether our audience finds it engaging or somehow useful. So, it’s crucial to understand what your target audiences want to hear (or don’t). You’ll gain good insights if you:
- Spend time with your colleagues and ask them questions.
- Review existing data such as HR records, employee survey results and exit interviews.
- Analyze what employees are saying on your digital comms channels.
- Piggyback on an upcoming employee survey with a few comms-related questions to gauge content preferences.
- Pick 10 colleagues at random, and give them a call.
Free resources to get you started:
- Government Communication Service offers different approaches to segmenting your audience, which is a key step in understanding your audience.
- GCS has questions to ask when listening to your audience.
- Dr. Kevin Ruck’s 2020 report on employee listening in organizations can improve your listening skills.
2. Focus on the big questions.
When I bagged my first communications manager role, I was obsessed with documenting my comms strategies and using elaborate templates.
However, I quickly learned:
- Senior stakeholders don’t care about your process or bells and whistles; they want to know what you plan to do and the proposed benefits.
- A communications strategy is essentially a set of answers to questions–no matter the format.
Here are some guiding questions to consider when crafting a simple communication plan:
- Where are you now (background)?
- Where are you heading/or where do you want to be (objectives)?
- How are you going to get there?
- How long it will take and why (timeline)?
- What is involved along the way (tactics)?
- How will you know when you’ve succeeded (measurement)?
Free resources to get you started:
- Matt Batten shares five simple steps to creating a top-notch comms strategy.
- CIPR Inside demonstrates the “what” and “how” of communication measurement.
3. Keep your content brief.
You can pick up great tips on creating simple, scannable content by exploring other fields, including copywriting, user experience design and psychology. Keep these guidelines in mind:
- Keep paragraphs under five lines.
- Shoot for shorter sentences (under 25 words).
- Use words with fewer than four syllables.
- Cover one idea per paragraph.
- Write in active voice.
- Put your key points in the first and last line or paragraph.
- Use headings, subheadings and bulleted/numbered lists to break up chunks of text. (Doing helps readers recall information better.)
How do you keep content simple, succinct and straightforward? Share your top tips in the comments section below.
Annique Simpson is an internal communication pro based in London. A version of this post first appeared on her blog.
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