Sadly we live in a world full of empty sound bites. Waves of words from people who are neither prepared nor qualified to comment. Yet comment they do, and in great abundance.
I place much of the blame on the bottomless pit of digital communications. Information from anybody, anywhere and at any time. In our race to fill this black hole we just start writing something, anything in the hope that someone out there will notice and listen. Shame on us. We can do much better than that.
Putting my money where my mouth is, some years ago I began to teach veteran communicators and college students. Writing and blogging is at the core of virtually ever presentation I conduct or class I teach. I call it my penance for complaining so loudly, but it’s really not. In our post-news media digital world I firmly believe that every person can be an effective communicator. We all have something relevant to say and the digital world gives us wonderful channels in which to say it.
Being meaningful is actually not difficult. It just requires a couple of simple ingredients, namely care and understanding.
First, you have to care enough about what you say to make it useful and relevant. Second you have to understand the group to which you’re talking well enough to know that what you say will be of use. Think of it as the “what” and “who” of meaningful communication.
Here are some steps that might help you…
- Determine precisely what it is you have to say.
Be clear, be concise, keeping it to one or two messages, no more.
- Research the topic to see what others have said and to learn more about your subject.
Don’t simply parrot what you read without crediting the source.
- Know and understand your intended audience as deeply as you can.
Who are they? What challenges are they facing? What questions do they have that you can answer? How can you help them?
- Now that you’ve refreshed your picture of the audience, go back to Step #1 and make sure what you have to say is important and on target. Change direction if it’s not.
- It’s now time to write, and edit, edit, and edit some more.
Take out the fluff, the self-serving, the tangents. Sharpen your words and your thoughts and be as brief as possible.
- Listen to comments, feedback, discussions. Learn. Grow.
Even when you see selfish, off-topic and sometimes mean comments, listen anyway. You can’t learn without listening.
I’m sure you see how the “‘what’ you want to say” and the “‘who’ you want to say it to” are closely tied together? If you really want to be meaningful you will catch yourself bouncing back and forth between these two directives as you hone and edit your writing. The end results will be clearly written not for you or your organization, but for the reader.
This all may sound simple and it is. With practice it becomes an approach that you will do naturally.
In the end your readers, your organization and you will come to appreciate the ease and clarity you bring to your story-telling.
Try it and let me know how it goes.