Regardless of your title, you are a communicator. An easy way to think about this is that anytime you’re talking about your work or a project with someone who isn’t directly involved in it, you’re serving as a communicator. You may be talking to your supervisor, to colleagues in a different health department, to a mom in a nutrition class, or to the media. Here are a few key things you can keep in mind to make your communications more effective:
- Don’t assume your audience knows what you’re talking about. We are all experts at what we do. Your audience is not. Avoid using acronyms and be especially careful about jargon when you’re talking to someone outside of your field. Not sure? Simply ask. “Do you know much about the public health training centers?” is a good way to gauge how much background you need to give about your program or initiative or idea.
- Don’t overwhelm. We all get very excited when talking about what we do, especially when we’re passionate about it. To somebody who isn’t as familiar with your work or your field, it can be overwhelming. Instead of sharing everything you know, share highlights and key messages.
- Keep it clean. Just because you can do a lot of fancy formatting doesn’t mean you should. Crisp, clean formatting is your friend; don’t let your formatting distract from your message. This can be applied to verbal communication as well: stay focused.
- Be consistent. When you start getting bored, your audience is just starting to listen. We’ve all been in a situation when someone asks a question that you know you have shared the answer to at least three times. When we share a lot of information, some of it gets lost. Keep repeating the most important messages.
- Ask for clarification. This goes back to point 1. When you’re asked a question, make sure you answer the question that was asked. Many of us have been in situations when simple questions don’t get answered because the question was misinterpreted. This happens frequently when the asker has a different level of familiarity and understanding of the subject than the person answering.
- Say no. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it. There are so many ways to reach people and communicate but not all of them are right for all initiatives. Know who your audience is and be strategic about how you reach them.
- One size doesn’t fit all. Different audiences have different needs. Tailor your messages.
- Consider how you like to be communicated to. Often, we consider the fastest or easiest way to get a message out, knowing that we don’t want to receive messages that way. Consider if you would want to receive the communication you’re creating. If you wouldn’t, either toss it or re-work it.
- Communicate with purpose. Don’t send that newsletter if the only reason you’re doing it is because you haven’t sent one in awhile. Don’t create a Facebook page because you think you need one. Have a purpose and strategy behind what you create and share, and how you do it.
- Make it easy to follow-up. Hopefully your audience will want to learn more. Make it easy for them. Provide direct links (bit.ly and other services make it really easy to create short links), exchange business cards, help folks get to your information in as few clicks as possible.
Do you have additional tips? Questions? Leave a comment or connect with Hannah.