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Tag: effectiveness

Yes You Can Handle Marketing Disasters Better


Photo: Very Giorgious

For marketers and leaders as communicators, these last few days have been a textbook case of how NOT to handle something. As one creative twitter user put it

I’ll admit playing Monday morning quarterback is easy. Yet the PR fiasco of how United (and it’s CEO) handled communication with its customers, employees and the world at large, could have been avoided with a touch of personal authenticity and a little faster. And the White House spokesperson Sean Spicer’s own travails could have been averted, with a little more care, and just taking some additional time before hitting the SEND button. (For those who missed it, three separate clarifications – stated, re-stated, re-re-stated, within a matter of minutes before a full-blown apology on cable television)

So what lessons can we draw as leaders and communicators

Be authentic
How would you act if this happened in person? If someone tripped over your leg or you happened to push them at the post office or at a crosswalk? Despite the litigious society we live in, most reasonable folks would inquire after the other party, “Are you alright?” Covering for the company or your own rear with corporate speak such as “I apologize for having for having to re-accommodate these customers,” and then blaming the victim “…he refused and became more and more disruptive and belligerent” are both neither good nor smart.

Be timely
United’s CEO finally a full day later made this statement, “I deeply apologize to the customer forcibly removed and to all the customers aboard. No one should ever be mistreated this way.” What a difference offering such an apology front would have made! In many ways, Sean Spicer’s apology at the end of a relatively disastrous day in which he made comparisons between the Assad regime and Hitler, was a good example of a timely and unequivocal apology. Unfortunately, in his case, his past flubs and history of misstatements likely undercut what otherwise appeared to be both genuine and textbook case of public contrition.

Be deliberate
As earlier attempts at clarification by both United’s CEO and the White House spokesperson demonstrated, little thought or deliberation seemed to have gone into their response. In Spicer’s case within 30 minutes, he sent three clarifications on what he had attempted to communicate with his Hitler comparison, with each further muddying waters. This was a clear case of not stepping back before hitting the SEND key. Deliberation does not mean delay or not timely – it primarily means the application of your mind – invariably it means not doing things as a reaction or in the throes of strong emotion.

In summary, acting in a Timely manner, while staying Authentic and being Deliberate in our actions is important for our communications to be effective. Think TAD!

3 Steps to Becoming a Better Communicator

“What is this person trying to tell me?”

Haven’t you found yourself wondering this in more than one situation?  In my experience, the single most critical skill that leaders in general and startup founders in particular need is that of being a good communicator. While most of us find it easy to talk  and some of us may actually listen, it doesn’t make us a good communicator.

How many of the meetings you attend seem not only interminable but often indecipherable? If this were a problem with just meetings, you could excuse yourself and read the meeting minutes. But alas meeting minutes, like many emails or other forms of written communication seem to only add to the confusion.

“What is this person trying to tell me?”

All of us are just as guilty as we dash off memos, texts, and presentations, sowing confusion at best and mayhem at worst. Here are three steps to help us communicate better. Try them and let me know how they work for you.

Single central message Whether a 3-line email or a 6-page white paper, your communication should have a SINGLE central message – what our English composition teachers tried to tell us – the theme sentence! This answers the question “What is this person trying to tell me?” So whether it’s the personal — “You need to spend less money on eating out” (that’s to my daughter), “We need to re-do the In-app Purchase (IAP) in this game (the professional)” or “We need to ensure ________ is not elected this year” (the national) or “We need a new nuclear disarmament treaty (the global) we need to communicate a single central message and no more in each of our communications.

Short as possible but long as needed This is one I’m yet to master and often undermines my own communication effectiveness. Even when I have a single central message if I wrap it with too many words, my message is lost. This could be emotional content (especially with my daughters), or excess justification (social or business context) or plain verbosity. Yet, in a corporate context, major changes require context setting, such as environmental factors at play, why this course of action and options considered – alternates considered and discarded and potential outcomes of actions taken or not. So the 3-sentence email one of my friends insists on writing may not always do the job, but ask yourself, does your presentation require 48 pages or can you say it any shorter?

Choose your medium carefully Sure writing email is easy – heck texting someone is even easier. But just as most folks agree, breaking up with your girlfriend (or significant other) over text is not cool, there is such a thing as an appropriate medium for any given communication. I’d say easier a missive is to send, the more likely it’s to sow confusion. Sure there are exceptions, but in general, it’s a good idea, to take a moment, before you send that text or email, to ask yourself, is this the best medium to communicate this message. I find often after having written a draft email, that picking up the phone or walking down the corridor to talk to the person a much more effective way to communicate. Similarly, even when presenting to a group of folks, few words on a slide or a graph to accompany your verbal communication or a handout might be more effective.

In summary, these 3 steps will help us take the first steps to being better communicators

  • What is my single central message?
  • Am I saying it as concisely as possible with adequate context?
  • What is the best medium to communicate this in?

An earlier draft of this article appeared in LinkedIn

3 Steps to More Effective Emails

Novell evolution email client Nederlands: Nove...

Several years ago I read an article by Esther Dyson on making email effective and it’s stayed with me to this day. Granted some of its resonance stemmed from the insights Esther shares in her article (you can read the original here) But more of it is due to the fact that I see badly written emails nearly every week. And this is particularly galling when it is someone who wants you to do something. They need a favor, an introduction or your time but can’t be bothered to write short, specific and clear emails. Things get worse in a corporate setting, when various political considerations come into play and more time is spent on figuring who’s on the To:, CC: lists than even the body of the mail. Of course the worst mails are the ones written by our inner reptiles without a human editor or better sense intervening before the SEND button is hit.

Despite numerous claims otherwise, email is here to stay and continues to grow from strength to strength. But here are three simple steps each of us can take to make email more effective and less painful.

Here are the three steps:

SPECIFIC – keep your emails specific. If you can’t state why you are writing an email is 10 words or less, you shouldn’t be writing the email. Usually an email is a call for a specific action by the reader – in which instance it helps to call out the fact that an action is required (I use the initials AR in the subject line) and the action itself in the subject line. The more specific the mail the greater the likelihood that it will be read and acted upon. It’s not the family christmas letter where you pile in all and sundry information whether pertinent or not. By keeping the mail specific, it also usually cuts down on the number of people who need to be copied on it.

CLEAR – having decided to be specific, it is critical to be clear. Far too many of the mails I receive require interpretation and often  help from my colleagues to decode or my having to ask the sender, what it was they were trying to say – which generates even more emails. And no this doesn’t happen only with  Japanese writers, who can be excused as non-native speakers of the English language but nearly every corporate email writer, who perpetually seem to be in a hurry to get as many emails out as possible. The problem of clarity is compounded in emails that are not specific to one topic and things go from bad to worse in no time.

SHORT – keep your mails short. This is one I’ve struggled with for a long time myself. Brevity requires clarity on our part and focusing on one topic or subject should ideally make it easier to keep it short. All too often long emails are a result of both lack of focus – trying to cover a lot of ground in a single email – as though we are charged by the email and lack of clarity – not sure what is we are saying or worse yet laziness to take the effort to say it as precisely and concisely as it can be said.  This is also the most misunderstood piece of email etiquette in my opinion. There as those who take brevity to an extreme, that you are not sure if this was a SMS you received – there’s neither a greeting (who’s it addressed to? was it meant for you or others on the cc list) nor a close – almost feels like you are being shouted at (even if it’s not in ALL CAPS) – worse yet you are not sure what it is they are saying. And others who haven’t yet left the previous century and their notes are filled with both flowery language or overly obsequious greetings and the use of big words (such as obsequious) when shorter words would do and anything less than two pages is short.

The good news is that short emails have to be specific and clear to be effective.  Each of these attributes builds on the other and you will find your emails will not only be more effective but hopefully acting as a model for folks at the other end of the line to emulate.

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