Better communications shouldn’t be the goal, but great communication always should be.
If we want to have more meaningful connections with, and be further engaged in, your customers or employees, businesses need to stop focusing on communications. It’s communication (no S) that needs to be the target for leaders, managers, and staff. Without good communication skills, you’ll find your intended audience will hear what you’re trying to say but won’t care as it means nothing to them. Is that the kind of employee or customer experience you want to give?
CommunicationS vs. CommunicatioN. What’s the Difference?
Communications (with the S) is about technology, tools or systems used to relay messages to audiences. This could include social media, blogs, podcasts, news releases, radio messages, websites, walk talkies, emails, texts, ebooks, phone calls or any other medium we use to get our information out.
Why it’s Important: you have to know what platforms are out there to spread your message and how to properly use each one as they all have their own unique rules. Each of these examples are also worth digging deeper into as social media branches into 100s of options like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. or email into newsletters, meeting reminders, etc.
Communication (no S) is about how you communicate. It’s about understanding the humans involved in the exchange of information, with empathy and compassion. Expressing and crafting ideas so that others understand them and with meaning.
Why it’s Important: to really create meaning for people, your message has to resonate on an emotional level. With the amount of “noise” out there from friends, family, strangers, marketers, the only way to stand out is to matter, personally.
Both can be strategic but understand the former is operational, while the latter is meaningful.
It’s the difference between being a carpenter or being a user of hammers and saws. There are many people who can use a hammer, unfortunately far less people understand the bigger picture of why it matters and who cares. Sure you need to know how to use a hammer and a saw, but not just anyone should be handling those instruments.
It’s a little frustrating that these two terms are generally interchangeable. I search online for “communications” and “communication” keeps popping up. It’s like looking for “management” and “leadership” appears in the results. No, they aren’t the same thing and we’re doing a disservice by confusing the two.
To solely use communications is to ignore or minimize sentiment and aim to get the biggest bang for your buck. It’s about reaching the highest number of people, using as many tools available and crafting the key messages for the point you’re trying to get across. Communications is sharing information to distribution lists, organizations, or demographics aka “the faceless masses”.
To use communication is to try to understand your audience. It’s about reaching the right people in a way that matters to them, with the right tone and language. It’s about an ongoing conversation that organically grows to include comments and questions, growing into a relationship and building social capital. Communication is sharing ideas to people with emotions and thoughts of their own, who care about their community and their families who want to engage and collaborate aka “your friends”.
Here are 3 Suggestions on How to Communicate Better:
- Reread what you wrote out loud – Do you even care? Before sending any message, listen to your words and check if it’s something that sounds like something you would send to a friend. It can still be professional sounding but ask yourself, “Does it sound like a template or an actual person?” or “Does it focus on topics that matter more to you or your audience?”
- Craft Deep Buyer Personas – Who are you talking to? If it’s your staff or anyone in your organization, you should have a good idea about what their interests are. If not, get to know your staff better. If it’s your customers and you say “Americans” or “teenagers”, please give your head a shake. Against a wall. To craft a message that matters, dig deeper. Define your ideal customer in every detail. It’ll help you communicate to them. Here’s a great Hubspot post on it.
- Welcome and Use Feedback – Are you listening to your audience? You can’t connect if you don’t understand. Surveys, feedback, comments, complaints, kudos…all should be a continual source of input to helping you build a relationship with your customer, staff, audience. But you have to be open to receiving it, open to considering it and open to implementing it.
To provide a great connection in customer service or employee engagement, it’s important to understand how to communicate, then using the right communications. It’s the audience defining the message which fuels the medium.
Be the carpenter, not a tool.