In The Public Relations Strategist, I recently read an article called: “Leading in Tough Times” by David Grossman (APR, Fellow of PRSA, and CEO of The Grossman Group). The article had several bits of interesting information, but one point stuck with me. Grossman points out that just because you write or talk doesn’t mean that you are communicating.
“If your audience isn’t understanding you, then it doesn’t matter what you are saying. Communication happens in the mind of the listener,” Grossman writes. In other words, the difference between writing and communication is how well you’ve reached your audience.
For people who aren’t in public relations or journalism, this concept is just about completely foreign! In school, other departments teach students to write in academic prose, which is typically too wordy with too many clauses and too stilted for consumption by the average individual. Just because you communicate well with an academic, doesn’t mean that you are communicating well overall.
In my opinion (and I don’t believe this is original thought, but maybe just difficult to determine to whom to attribute it), there are three things we can do to better communicate with a general audience:
How many times have I written useless words in this article? “Just”, “so”, the list continues. Trimming back these useless words and some redundant sentences would make any written piece more understandable. As William Zinsser, author of “On Writing Well”, wrote “It won’t do to say that the snoozing reader is too dumb or too lazy to keep pace with the train of thought. My sympathies are with him. If the reader is lost, it is generally because the writer has not been careful enough to keep him on the path.”
We all practice writing at work–it’s part of the job! But what do you do to practice when you’re not in the office? Later, I might practice by writing a long update email to some friends or by adding to the pages of my neglected journal. Right now, I’m practicing by writing this blog post. If you’re looking for more ways to practice your writing and communication, New Professionals members can also write for this blog. (Contact me if you’re interested.)
It’s no secret that the best writers are enthusiastic readers. Now, we find so many sources of content, narrowing down options has become tough. Hundreds-of-thousands of books are published each year, and maybe as many blogs are posted each day. Then you have newspapers, social media. So how do you find what to read? On top of my work-related updates on Google Reader, the dailies, and the weeklies, I typically take recommendations from magazines, friends, or colleagues. (Did you notice that your New Pros group has been reading and discussing 3 books during our “Summer Book Club”? It’s not too late to participate in the August’s book “Crush it!; we’ll discuss the book on the blog during the first two weeks of next month.)
What about you? How well do you think you communicate with your intended audience? Do you have tips or tricks that keep you on your game?
JANET KRENN is the 2010 Chair of the New Professionals of PRSA and will be hosting the “CRUSH It!” discussion during our Summer Book Club in August. You can contact her at janetqs(a)gmail.com or @janetkrenn.