Posted Saturday, January 1, 2005
When we communicate, we usually want something to happen. We want results. And, when we’re conscious of results, we’re seeking effective communication.
To put it another way, the effectiveness of communication can be measured by the responses it gets. It's not measured by how well we wrote or how eloquently we spoke, although those can help us get the responses we want.
Good writing and speaking help us get a response because they help get the message across. As I've argued in my book, A Manager's Guide to Newsletters, a newsletter that doesn't get read cannot get a response from readers.
So, writing, designing, speaking, and all those other creative activities matter. But, in the end, responses are what count, and effectiveness means getting the responses we want.
That's true for all types of communication, and not just marketing campaigns. Managers who send messages to employees, for example, want employees to respond in a particular way. Maybe they want the employees to do something differently, or maybe they want to reinforce existing behaviors.
For a couple of employee newsletters I published, effectiveness meant greater awareness of health and safety issues. If the newsletter worked, then they should have helped reduce the number of plant accidents and helped employees lead healthier lifestyles.
One more point: Effectiveness cannot be achieved without articulated objectives. As the old adage goes, "If you don't know where you're going, any road with do." Or, as the inimitable Yogi Berra put it, "If you don't know where you are going... You might end up someplace else."
With that, let’s create a quick and easy checklist that takes us through the basic steps required for effective communication:
1. What is your objective, what do you want to happen? Do you want more sales, reduced employee turnover, renewals by members? Be specific about your objectives, and if you can attach time and dollar values to them so much the better.
2. What response of readers or listeners is necessary? What action should they take? What thoughts do you want them to keep in their minds? Do you want to reinforce existing thinking or behaviors? What do they need to do in terms of your objective?
3. Why would they respond to your message? It's all very well for you to have objectives, but you'll also have to offer something that provides value in their terms. Think of commercial broadcasting, which combines free entertainment with advertising messages.
4. What message content will motivate them to act? What subjects will provide that value to them?
5. How will you present that content? You can entertain, inform, consult, challenge, solve problems, and more.
6. How often will you have to repeat the message? In many cases, you'll need to make multiple contacts to get the response you want. Stockbrokers making sales calls, for example, figure on an average of five to seven contacts before a prospect becomes a potential client.
7. If you quantified your objectives, does the value of meeting the objective exceed the cost of communicating? In a marketing context, for example, how many sales do you have to make to pay the cost of your advertising campaign?
Going through these steps will start us on the right foot, because it pushes us to think about responses. And, when we're focused on responses, we're much more likely to communicate effectively.
About the Author
Robert F. Abbott writes and publishes Abbott's Communication Letter. Each week subscribers receive, at no charge, a new communication tip that helps them lead or manage more effectively. Click here for more information: