How to Communicate Clearly:
These three points are integral:
- Know your Mind,
- Speak the Truth from your Heart,
- Recognize the Audience as Yourself (Empathize)
As a communicator it is of utmost importance to know who you are, speak from a place of honesty, and be able to empathize with your audience. Here are a few personal anecdotes, and examples that illustrate the three points that I think are necessary to communicate clearly.
Today, everyone has a story to tell. Storylines change like the weather – they fluctuate depending on which way the wind blows. My mother used to say that this relativist/dualist method of thinking and operating was dangerous. At the time she was going through a conversion as a born again Christian and needed an absolute belief as an anchor. She had just lost her son in a tragic accident and had a grandchild with Down Syndrome. Also, she was a teenager during WWII and lived in German-occupied Linz, Austria. This framed her perspective.
Not taking ones’ history into consideration is akin to a recent court case in Europe where: “European Court of Justice (E.C.J.)—the E.U.’s equivalent of the Supreme Court—issued a ruling on the “right to be forgotten,” which grants Google users the right to have links about themselves removed from Google’s search results.” http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/elements/2014/05/dictator-not-found.html. This kind of selective memory is troublesome because it obscures history and contributes to a “factory of forgetting” – reminiscent of book burning?
On the other hand, my father was a more liberal storyteller. `His story’ plots changed slightly with every telling about his escape from post-WWII Czechoslovakia. And, his work-related preaching was not always grounded in practice. Specifically, he smoked and drank which was opposite to what he promoted as a health educator. My dad was hard-working, and an excellent people-person. Picture a Slavic Don Draper.
Feeling caught in the middle of my parents’ almost diametrically opposed personalities, formed me as a researcher, editor, curator and seeker of a more balanced and neutral course in life. Know your sources – learn how to identify and select their best qualities. Use the stories that uphold your integrity and support the good of the whole. Operate from a balanced – neutral state of mind. Don’t react from a negative, fearful state or alternately be overly trusting and uncritical; maintain healthy boundaries. Yes, even if your primary sources are your parents.
When conducting research you should use at least three credible sources as a basis for your premise. The burden of proof rests on the trustworthiness of these sources. These are a select group of individuals/publishers/institutions, etc. and their retinues. Sources change over time depending on what your subject experts and content curators determine as valid or trend worthy/timely. Trends reflect the content that is significant or meaningful to an audience at a particular time in history. Check out UPWORTHY: http://www.upworthy.com/ a media company that presents a new model for presenting “meaningful” stories that resonate for a 20s-30s crowd. They partner with The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and solicit advertising that is aligned with their mission-driven objectives. Another reoccurring trend reported in the NY Times indicates that business and government, sources in their own right, are attempting to set editorial rules and control journalists access to information: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/04/opinion/sunday/when-sources-set-the-ground-rules.html?ref=opinion. Controlling the press in this way could compromise information outcomes.
Measuring audience time spent engaging with a particular news article, advertisement, blog article, etc. on a website, social media site, is a complex process. For me it’s about long-term trust in an information source and the involved players. This is important to consider when you conduct research on any topic, within any field or industry. The source must be solid or reputable according to industry standards and survive the test of time – this is the provenance or history of the information. Your research and story must resonate in your heart; a feeling and gut instinct – not always measurable through scientific method.
Facts and opinions (i.e. polls) tracked through page views, clicks, shares, etc. are accepted as concrete evidence. A recent CBC Radio, Sunday Edition piece talks about how these methods, used to track user engagement, try to make qualitative assumptions about the content: http://www.cbc.ca/thesundayedition/documentaries/2014/05/18/online-news-clickbait-and-the-rise-of-the-list/ Tools for tracking user engagement will evolve as the online media industry develops. But, one thing will not change: speaking in clear, committed language, in a truthful way, is imperative for successful communication. This is a heart-centered activity.
In Canada we “surf the net,” “ride the wave,” etc., even though we are not California surfers. Our ability to adapt to and navigate inconstancy is considered an asset in this global digital age. Mindfulness (a Buddhist derived activity) – and other forms of meditation are popular ways of managing, sorting through, and not getting overwhelmed by accelerated change and “information overload” as coined by Alvin Toffler in Future Shock, 1970. The dated terminologies we use identify our cultural histories and philosophical biases.
New online marketing terms and jargon are born every day, i.e. ROI – Return on Investment, Conversion Rate, CSS – Cascading Style Sheets, etc. This site demystifies some of the terminologies and acronyms: http://www.marketingterms.com/dictionary/ Likewise there are glossaries for other types of online work such as social media, web development – http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2009/05/21/web-design-industry-jargon-glossary-and-resources/, etc.. Treat your audience as yourself. Speak clearly in the language of your audience and don’t try to deceive or confuse them with terminologies and acronyms that will snag them. Explain and illustrate your thesis. Educate your readers.
How can anyone keep abreast of the rules of engagement when Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and other online metric tools and protocol change faster than we can keep up? Posts are marked with Meta tags (key words) for categorization. They help us organize and control content dissemination. Formal methods of content management and analysis are necessary when handling large amounts of information “Big Data”. Without these new tools and the knowledge of how to use them, online content becomes meaningless and lost in cyberspace. There is a paradigm shift in the way we engage with and control content, but it is still our responsibility to communicate accurately and ethically.
Accessibility is not only about access to the appropriate hardware and online software tools. It’s about access to quality information and individuals, publishers and institutions who can help you navigate the seas of change and excess. Being able to think clearly and critically and ask the right questions is imperative. Research tools change over time. But, the integrity and truth of the content is the backbone and King/Queen of online communication. Treat your audience as yourself and they will engage meaningfully.
Contact MPalko Media Consulting for help getting your content focused to your specific needs!