Leave the TPS Reports in 1998. Use These 4 Strategies to Update Your Business Communication.
For the past year, I have been conducting a business communications class for young professionals, and in the process of compiling research, I have been surprised at just how antiquated much of the traditional teaching material seems to be. Many recommended teachings are based on lessons I learned in grade school, and while rules for spelling, punctuation and grammar have changed little, those for format and style have changed dramatically.
The learning objectives of my lessons are to first emphasize the importance of communications in business and second to learn how to communicate more effectively. The problem is that traditional means of communications do not consider the remarkable number of options, choices and distractions our customers have these days. Also, how we consume communications and content is altogether different now that we have and carry with us everywhere small, handheld mobile computing devices.
So while there will always be a time and place for traditional means of communications -- office memos, cover sheets, TPS reports -- these older and traditional styles of business communications need a reboot when it comes to how we communicate with customers. Here are a few tips you can consider for your business communications strategy.
1. Remember that less is best.
In the past, companies had limited channels to communicate with consumers (newspapers, magazines, television commercials, etc.), so businesses had to cram a great deal of information in a short amount of time.
With the Internet, however, gone are the days when more information was good. These days, businesses need to capture consumers’ attentions with effective inbound marketing strategies and direct them to the company website or other landing space, where they then provide the needed information to convert the visitor to a sale (either online or at a physical location).
Remember, your consumers have an infinite number of choices for what they can gaze upon, so you need to convey your message in a few short sentences -- even words -- or you will lose their attention and excitement almost immediately.
2. Embrace mobile as the default consumption vehicle.
In the past, companies formulated business communications with a far different idea of how, where and when our customers were going to receive our message. Today, our customers expectations are influenced not only by the message but also by the means by which it is received.
It is no secret that our business messages are being consumed via mobile devices -- maybe more these days than television, radio or print. For this reason, you need to create communications with the expectation that it will be, first and foremost, consumed on handheld devices with small screens and with a barrage of distractions. It is crucial, therefore, that your message be simple and easily consumed.
3. Enhance your communications with visuals.
We are naturally wired to react and engage with visuals far better than text alone. A vast majority (90 percent) of all data processed by our brains is visual. For this reason, you need to be considering how to integrate visuals in your communication not only to help the visual image of your message but also to convey its mood, tone and style.
In addition to color and style consideration, your communication should also consider:
- Pictures. Photographs, and specifically faces, are a great way to connect emotionally with consumers.
- Memes. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words -- but in the case of an advertising campaign, you really want to control that message. One way to do this is with a meme, which is a creative way of combining a visual with a word or phrase to help emphasize a message or add clarity.
- GIFs. Another great way to leverage visuals is with a graphic interchange format file, or “GIF,” which is a short, animated image that can be inserted into electronic communications. Now that many social media services and websites are allowing GIFs, this is an effective and often entertaining way to send a business message.
4. Replace your communications with visuals.
Another great way to create effective communications in a mobile world is to simply replace traditional written content with visual content. In this regard, businesses have a number of amazing tools available to them to help with this task.
- Infographics. Infographics are an effective way to communicate a message using a combination of graphics and text. Because the purpose is to replace text with images and relate the message through visual storytelling, a good deal of skill and planning is required to effectively do so
- Slideshows. Another effective way to communicate with visuals is creating a slideshow. Using traditional platforms, such as PowerPoint, is easy, but these days, you can use alternative and effective methods, such as Prezi, to create powerful visual presentations. Again, like infographics, accurately and effectively conveying your message in this visual format requires skill and creativity.
- Videos. We could not discuss communicating through visuals without mentioning video, probably the easiest and most effective way to communicate in business. In addition to being remarkably easy to consume, videos offer the ability to convey context and tone far more effectively than static photos and words alone. With that said, because all business communications are a direct reflection of your company’s image and brand, a great deal of effort should be put into turning out professional content that is reflective of your business culture and core values.
Today, readers’ time and attention is the most valuable prize when it comes to business communications. To get it requires creativity and thinking outside the box. To keep it requires respecting their needs, understanding their expectations and delivering the most value possible in every business communication. Integrating these tips into your business communication strategy is the start -- mastering them is where the real impact lies.
What other tips do you have for more effectively creating business communications? Please share your thoughts.