It would be fair to say that those who know me know I tend to bang on about the art of communication. I would like to think it is a skill set worthy of respect but even I recognise that good communication is not quantum physics. It is, however, a skill set that can, and should, be employed regularly – clearly that’s a lesson lost on some very public figures lately. The run-up to the snap election has left some senior politicians wanting; their very public fumbling is a salutary lesson to all those in business seeking engagement with their own audiences. In the art of communicating effectively there are rules people!
If the outcome of any interview, news release, tweet, seminar or media interview is to ensure your audience believes you to be an expert in your field then make sure you are. “Winging-it” or feeling that a few cursory minutes preparing what you are going to say will be enough you will falter. Know what you are going to say, how you are going to say it and anticipate the impact of what you say. Do your homework; if you are quoting reference material re-read it. Nerves can get the better of anyone but the primary way you counter nerves is to know your stuff. It’s not enough to know the subject, you need to know around the subject ready for any question that may come your way. If you are being interviewed consider what questions will be asked and have cogent, informed answers (are you listening Diane and Amber?).
Be in control. Be prepared to front your comments. A news release can often be the last bastion of the faint-hearted. We work in a digital world where the visual image is king. Go on camera, on the radio, post video on YouTube, Facebook Live the subject; don’t dodge public engagements – stand up and be counted when it is crucial to do so (are you listening Theresa?).
If you have communicated well be ready to do more. People will respond to you so make sure you are listening. It’s vital that we see communication as a two-way street not a “push” mechanism for your own messages. Speak to people on the forums on which they are talking about the business you are in or the subjects on which you are a specialist. Releasing your pearls of wisdom on your static website is all very well but if the conversations are happening elsewhere are you shouting into an empty room?
If you don’t know find out, if you are not a good communicator become one. I have been known to say that good communication skills are not a dark art inherited from birth, they are a muscle that only gets better and stronger with exercise. Look at Jeremy Corbyn… two years ago he was a laughing stock, painted as a bumbling, well-intentioned buffoon. Two years on, and a few accomplished performances to camera, and even the conservative media have conceded he is getting the job done. He knows his objectives, he’s done his homework and he is far more clearly identifying issues which resonate with his audience.
As in politics, business leadership is no longer just about being in charge and leading a team. It is as much about accomplished communication as anything else. As the past few weeks (months, years?) have shown we are impressed by those who know what they are talking about and tell us in ways which work for us. Be that guy.