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Slightly better nuanced

Great communication is an invisible art form.

Let me explain.

Recently I was offline for the better part of a week, spending time in another city and relaxing. A week offline in another city is a useful way of taking a breath of fresh air and taking in a larger view than my predominantly online one.

Many things struck me there, all of which are irrelevant to the city I was in and of massive importance to us as communicators.

And it all revolves around the concept of tradecraft .

One of the many visually jarring experiences was a large corner store near where my family and I stayed, a large convenience store located on a busy intersection in the heart of the city.

Writ large above the store is an illuminated sign in art deco font proclaiming the store to be a convenience store and café.

What aggrieved me was that the font used for the very large sign above the store had absolutely no relationship to the offerings of the store or its surroundings.

It was another in a very long line of examples of the injudicious use of a font that obviously appealed to either the shop owner or the sign maker. But it had absolutely no relevance to its surroundings.

Another jarring example was the A-frame sign outside an aboriginal artifacts shop located in a tourist honeypot of a market.

The sign bullet pointed the different 'things' the shop sold, like boomerangs and paintings and digeridoos. The last in the line of bullet points said. "Aboriginal owned". Aboriginal owned WHAT? If every bullet point was a 'something' that the store sold, then what was an 'aboriginal owned'?

Again, what I saw was an example of something designed perhaps to the owner's specification - the owner went to a sign shop and said "I want the sign to say this." and the sign shop dutifully did as it was told, no questions asked or advice given.

Granted, the visual layout of the sign was complementary to the store and its surroundings, but the grammatical inconsistency spoke volumes about a lack of a wordsmith's involvement.

Why do I mention all this?

Because it brought home to me a fundamental piece of the business communication puzzle that we sometimes forget to mention to our clients and our bosses.

And again I leapfrog to another subject - think of any champion sports player, or a renowned dancer or painter or musician. What separates them from the average weekend athlete or amateur? Not whether they get paid for their work or not. No.

It is precisely because their genius lies in making something incredibly difficult to perform look so irresistibly easy to do. A champion dancer makes you believe you could dance like that; a master musician inspires you to pick up the guitar or take a few piano lessons; the champion tennis player makes you want to dust off your old tennis racquet.

The highly skilled artisan in whatever field of endeavour makes what they do look so easy to do that you believe there's nothing to it. And therein lies their genius.

Now, bring all this back to the business communication world.

What makes one employee newsletter boring and another not? They both use imagery; they both use words; they both use white space.

What makes one a dull waste of time and the other not is that illusive combination of multidisciplinary factors that coalesce to create a masterpiece.

The typography is right, the imagery is right, the proportions white space to content is right; the stock used is right; the words used are right; the layout is right; the strategic intent is right; the delivery mechanism is right and the timing is right.

How can you tell when you have all the pieces of the puzzle in the right place at the right time? You can't tick a tick-sheet and go "Yes, it is because of X and Y and Z". It just is right.

All of the jigsaw pieces, from strategy through to tactics through to the recipient's frame of mind are in alignment.

And getting all of those jigsaw pieces aligned correctly takes skill and good judgment and verve and a large dose of luck.

And it is precisely at those moments when it does all come together that the client or your manager or the recipient doesn't even notice any of the elements - they all work so harmoniously together that the recipient doesn't even realise why they have just done precisely what you strategically intended they do, be it make a purchase, increase their engagement or simply be informed.

It is so easy to see when a communication goes wrong, so easy to point out the elements that helped create the cognitive dissonance that resulted in a failed communication.

It should be impossible to see why a communication got it 'right', because the elements should fuse together so seamlessly to create exactly the right strategy-led result that dissembling it is impossible.

Which is why I have created a new phrase which I believe explains why one communication or communicator is better than another - "Slightly better nuanced."

Which is what I hope every person reading this page takes pride in - creating messages that have slightly more nuances that 'touch' the recipient in ways they themselves cannot explain but that drive them to a course of action that we strategically want them to take.

The nuances come from the typography, the imagery, the layout design, the words used and the words unused but hinted at, the stock or other media used, the delivery mechanism used, the timing, the pre-placement of the recipient's attention and emotional state.

There is no difference, as I see it, between having a communication piece that appeals to or creates unconscious recognition (pereferably positive) in a recipient and having a comms piece that is subtle - as long as the comms piece achieves its strategically-directed aim.

The same applies with a communicator - a personable, agreeable and just plain 'nice' communicator might be a joy to watch on stage, but unless they focus on the message the message will be lost in the 'noise'.

My view is whether we are sending out communications pieces, whether we are standing in front of a microphone, camera or audience of thousands, whether we are designing a shop-front sign, we should be very much aware of the environment that surrounds us and the type of recipient we want our message to appeal to.

By offering the target recipient more unconscious 'hooks' to persuade them to act in a way you want them to act, you are creating a slightly better nuanced communication.

I strive in all of my communications to be ' slightly better nuanced ' - what about you?



Reports I have written:

Measuring the impact and ROI of social media
Measuring the impact and ROI of social media - for Ark Group
Making social media work for your business
Making Social Media work for your business - for Ark Group
Social Media: the new business communication landscape
Social Media: The New Business Communication Landscape - for Ark Group
How to get started with podcasting in your organisation
How to get started with podcasting in your organisation - for Melcrum Publishing
How to use social media to solve critical internal communication issues
Contributing author to How to use social media to solve critical internal communication issues - for Melcrum Publishing

How to use social media to engage employees
Contributing author to How to use social media to engage employees - for Melcrum Publishing

Contributing author to How to communicate with hard-to-reach employees - for Melcrum Publishing



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