Michael Quin Heavener

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Integrating effective communications

Embracing a new paradigm to communicate consistently

I've waited a long time for the worlds of communications and technology to converge. For too long, we've been wowed by the latest technology—the shiny new toy—and we've thrown out messages at random because we have the means.

Fortunately, that's changing. It's changing because we're re-evaluating how to communicate. We're re-evaluating how to use the tools. And we're re-evaluating why we do it.

It's important to remember that communication needs to be consistent, integrated, unified, and cohesive to be effective. Technology is the starting point, not the end. And that's the point of this essay.

The forms of messaging that I use spread themselves across a wide variety of social and technological spectrums. That's why I call myself a communications integrator, not a technical communicator. Not a marketing communicator. A storyteller.

Marshall McLuhan, 40 years ago, got it backward. Communications must be all about the message, not the medium. The medium only enhances the message. When the caveman gesticulated beside the fire, when he drew primitive pictures on the cave wall, when he grunted the first spoken sound, he wanted to be understood. Not praised for the intricacy of his hand motions or quality of his artwork.

No matter what the writing style or technology, one basic rule always holds. Your audience doesn't care if he or she gets your message on paper, by television, through the internet—it's the consistency that counts. Even if you're converting the words to another language for another country, it's still the same. Keep the message simple—and integrate it consistently.

Deliver it in person, by mail, email, horseback, paddle boat, Internet, cell phone, plasma screen, iPod. Whether you compose your communication in Microsoft Word, Instant Messenger, or Etch-A-Sketch, people need to receive it to react. I'm kidding about the Etch-A-Sketch, but only just.

Communicating boils down to one thing. Give your audience consistent, integrated information that will help them make decisions—and tell them how to solve problems. Give them something of value and they will reward you with their attention. That's really what communicating is all about.

After you've read the rest of this essay, call me at 425 208-5130. I'll tell you if your message is integrated … and I'll explain how it can be.

Eleven ways to communicate

There are many ways to say the same thing, and sometimes you must say them all if you want to get your audience's attention.

Simple philosophy

Just tell me the facts, and just the ones I'm interested in. But … entertain me while you're at it.

Starting point for the future

Why are we limiting our messages to the size of one piece of paper? As communications and technology converge, the eye's the limit.

Message remains the core

And yet, the components should only support the message, the delivery shouldn't dominate the information.

Writing shapes us

Communication begins with simple shapes that convey powerful concepts. Now that's symbolic.

Understanding the needs

Know what your audience wants to hear before you try to tell something them don't.

Key differences

And know the distinctions between your audience segments, too. Don't treat a sysop like the IT manager. Serve them separately, if they're both critical.

Brevity

Keep it short.

 

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