It’s been another super busy week, including starting a new project.
Here are just four of the highlights…
1. Talking to Experts
I’ve had a few conversations this week with colleagues and friends about this.
For those of us working in large organisations, whether it’s doing internal comms or speaking to a predominantly professional, expert audience; the quandary of “assumed knowledge” is ever present.
And most of us, if we’ve ever applied for a comms job have usually seen the lines “must be adept at creating engaging communications from complex information”, or “must have experience in juggling competing - sometimes contradictory - priorities” in the person spec.
Pitching communications to audiences that already know a lot about the subject matter in intimate detail (a regular occurrence if you work in either health or academia) is something a lot of comms people grapple with every day.
You don’t want to “dumb down”. You want to make sure you sound credible, and use the language of the profession you’re working with.
I’m perhaps being charitable here, but I can’t help but feel this desire to be credible and to be meeting experts where they need to be in terms of their knowledge of a particular subject; can be the reason between a lot of pretty bad, unengaging comms outputs.
Overly wordy leaflets. Multi-paragraph-long web pages. Powerpoint presentations packed with numbers and incomprehensible graphs. You’ve all seen them, or been forced to sit through them.
Yes, academics are used to reading very long papers and research reports.
Yes, medical professionals are used to talking about things in great forensic detail.
Yes, finance people are very comfortable with complex numbers.
But here’s the thing. It’s their job to read and act on this stuff.
Unfortunately it’s not their job to engage with your comms outputs. It’s our job to make it relevant, accessible and comprehensible to them.
Making the complex, simple and engaging is a huge challenge. But, honestly, it’s one that I love getting my hands dirty with.
The way I look at it, you need to approach a highly-informed expert audience in the same way you would anyone. You need to understand their world. Yes the language they use, but also the practical reality they work in.
Like anyone, you need to understand their priorities, their motivators and their barriers to engagement before designing and producing any comms materials. The fact is, whatever the profession of your expert audience, they’re probably busy, and without a lot of time to sit, read and comprehend your message.
So, the same basic rules of the comms game apply. Our outputs still need to have confident messaging, be appropriate for the channel, be timely, credible and accessible.
Very much like “young people are people too”; this is true of our senior clinicians, lecturers, senior leaders, executive teams, elected members, whoever.
Making the complex, simple and engaging is a part of being a comms professional that I love. If you start by remembering that your expert audience are just normal people, then that holds the key to engaging impactful comms, whatever the subject matter.
2. Post-its and pens
For my money, the most important two items in any comms persons locker are the humble felt-tip pen, and the even humbler post-it note.
This week I led a workshop with a client around refreshing their comms strategy for the next 12 months.
There were about 8 highly qualified, highly experienced professionals round the table, where we discussed the organisation’s messaging and how to translate their audiences’ needs into specific comms objectives.
I love running these types of sessions. They’re all about translating expertise into messages and outputs that really work for their audiences. And very much like in Point 1 of this post, I love how they allow you to derive simple human narratives from incredibly complex information.
And it never ceases to amaze me how the humble Post-it note helps to cut through the jargon and show themes and trends, that lead to priorities, that lead to objectives, that lead to the right outputs.
It’s amazing what a small sticky piece of paper can do….
3. Blog post of the week
I absolutely love this post:
“Why I want to ban internal awareness-raising campaigns” by an Anonymous Source, via comms2.0.
It’s a very long overdue take-down of the incessant desire (note: “desire”, not “need”) for “awareness raising” in internal comms.
The post is written from an internal perspective, but it’s very applicable to all types of comms.
At best “raising awareness” is a means to an end. It is not an end in itself. Nor is it a call to action.
At worst, it’s a vague, unfocused sort-of aspiration, that is used as a catch-all excuse for not doing the hard thinking around the purpose and objectives around a campaign.
I get that in the excitement to “do a video” or “put it on social media”, asking “why?” is a difficult question to answer for some.
But luckily for me; as much as I love and am exhilarated by the creative process, this exploration of purpose and objectives (the “why”) is the bit I enjoy the most.
It’s from this singular point of truth that impactful, creative solutions emerge, so it’s worth spending time with. And your internal clients will thank you. In the end…
4. Podcast of the week
More than once I’ve mentioned on here about how incredibly supportive the UK freelancer community is.
One of the best examples of this is the Being Freelance podcast, with the ever enthusiastic and engaging Steve Folland.
This week features a great interview with Freelance Marketer Gareth K Thomas.
Gareth runs his own freelance comms business, and the interview goes into detail about how he got started, and how he juggles running a business with being the foster carer of three children.
Gareth goes into loads of detail about his journey and talks about the ups and downs, the anxieties and the excitement of being a freelance marketer really eloquently.
It’s a really touching, and informative listen, so give it a go….
5. Almost there with Episode 3
Speaking of freelancer-based podcasts…
Episode 3 of “How to Go Freelance: A guide for the terrified” is very nearly in the can.
I’ve been editing it together this week and hope to have it ready next week. It has taken me a lot longer to put it together than I thought it would: for the entirely welcome reason, that I’ve actually been too busy with client work to look at it.
But, it’s been brilliant listening again to the interviews I did back in May or June this year when I was still just thinking of starting Grey Fox. So much of what my interview guests told me back then has either come true or been invaluable to me.
So, I hope you’ll forgive the delay, but I hope it’ll be worth the wait next week.