Improve Communication by Delivering a Simple Message

Posted by David Scult
At Fonality, we offer small and mid-sized businesses the tools they need to communicate, but just having the right tools to deliver it doesn't guarantee a message will have measureable impact. A recent Inc. post offered some useful communication tips that all come back to one core principle: simplify the message.

"Important communication doesn’t require a thud factor," post author and marketing consultant Rene Shimada Siegel wrote. "More is not more. Of course there are times when more words are necessary for diplomacy or clarification, but in this always-on digital age, 'more' often dilutes or complicates your message."

In many cases, when there is no barrier to communication, we are inclined to ramble and repeat ourselves. Siegel recommended simplifying messages by using bullet points to break them up, outline them and offer a call to action. Additionally, she suggested breaking communication down to its three most important points, noting that additional points often become extraneous or redundant.

CommunicatingThis approach echoes the ideas championed by Chip Heath, a professor of organizational behavior in Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, who studies what makes certain messages stick with people. In an interview with McKinsey Quarterly, Heath noted that leaders often spend a lot of time coming up with unique ideas but then invest relatively little time in deciding how to share them. He explained the importance of simplicity for conveying these messages effectively.

"Leaders know lots of things about their organization and business and want to share them all," he said. "But effective leaders are masters of simplicity. I’m not talking about dumbing down a message or turning it into a sound bite; I’m talking about identifying the most central, core elements of strategies and highlighting them."

Too often, having too many points can stall a message rather than enhance it, Heath said. One way leaders can simplify their messages, whether for employees, investors or consumers, is by adding a concrete element to illustrate the idea. For instance, rather than telling your employees that customer service is a priority, highlight the example of the time Employee A spent an extra half hour on the phone making sure a customer got exactly what they wanted.

While leaders can't necessarily afford to spend too much time thinking through every daily message and reducing it to its core points, it's worth taking the time to make sure that both internal and external stakeholders clearly understand main business priorities or a particular message. To do this, keep the message to the point.  Force yourself to draft a message in PowerPoint without every having an idea wrap to a second line.  It’s a great technique to force yourself to get at the essence of the message and eliminate all of the non-essential thoughts or words.