When you are in the business of connecting with others, understanding the tools that are available to you is important.
Here is a rather informal list of communication ‘tools’ that I try to keep at my fingertips and in good order. One thing you will notice is that while I am on virtually every social media channel there is, many of the tools here are pretty low-tech. Don’t fix what isn’t broke. Let me know if I have missed any that you find useful!
1. Dialogue: the basic act of building mutual understanding. Best done in person. Email works OK. Social media does not. Dialogue is not just two or more people sending words back and forth. The word implies an ongoing conversation of discovery, argument, negotiation, and relationship building. A dialogue is not something you have with thousands of people. It requires focus and commitment. And it requires you to be open minded and free of ‘goals’ for the process. Identify the ‘difference makers’ in your environment and get the dialogue started.
2. Face time: somewhere between 60% and 80% of in-person communication is non-verbal. Body language, para-language (the little noises like ‘hmm’ and ‘um’ that we make), and tone of voice, all have huge impact on the perceptions of our listeners, particularly at the emotional level where most quick judgments are made. When you don’t connect with people face-to-face, or at least on the phone, most of that is gone. How effective is your message if half of it is missing? If you have a message that really matters, or more importantly, a relationship that really matters, make a point of connecting in person or by telephone.
3. Food: if you do get that face time, try to work a meal into it. At least spring for a cup of coffee! Research is consistent about the positive impact of food in social settings. It makes people relaxed and receptive. And it sends that all-important message that the other person matters enough that you would see to their comfort, and that you would take the time out of your day to spend with them.
4. Stories: show, don’t tell. Using items like press releases, blogs, newsletters, tell the stories of how you have made real differences in the lives of real people and real business. A story has characters, conflict, a beginning, middle, and end. Stories are powerful marketing tools, but even more powerful in Public Relations. No number of charts, statistics will touch the power of a story to communicate the positive impact you are having on your community, employees, or market.
5. Monitoring & research: To communicate effectively you have to be current about the world of your audience. It is important early in an exchange to send the clear signal that you understand your listener’s world. It creates a shared bond, and broadcasts that you care enough to do your homework. Particularly when you are asking something of the other person, it is important to know how decisions get made in their world. If you can frame your pitch or request in a way that illustrates you understand the power and decision-making dynamics of your listener’s world, and more importantly, have prepared your request in a way that anticipates some of the challenges, you will be miles ahead.
6. Notes: If you aren’t taking notes of during or immediately after any key conversations, you are missing an opportunity. Good notes give you a record to check your understanding against. Just as importantly, good notes give you something concrete to follow up on later. My rule of thumb is that if the conversation was important enough to book in my calendar, it is important enough for me to take notes.
8. Follow-up: This is one of the most powerful tools in your communication tool-kit. And for how often it is used, it may as well be a magical secret. Checking back a few days after an important conversation, thanking the person, and being specific about a couple of things you enjoyed about, or learned from, your time together, is a powerful relationship builder.
7. Social Media: the communication extender. Social media channels like Facebook and Twitter can help you grow your network. But where they really add rocket fuel is in continuing, extending, & enriching existing relationships. Social media can also help you add extra horsepower to your other tools. Story telling, monitoring and research, and follow-up can all be made more effective when you make social media part of the mix.
None of this is rocket science. But in a world where information-overload, and a growing level of background noise makes it harder and harder to get our message heard, these are effective tools. What makes them particularly effective is that they seem to be a best-kept secret. If you use the tools in this tool belt consistently, you will stand out just because no one else does!
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Want to improve your communication with employees, partners, and customers? I help organizations improve communication through social media strategies and management-level workshops. When it comes to business and social media, Twitter has become the ‘difference maker’ Try my online 6-day Twitter BootCamp.