8 ways to make sure your message is understood

June 2, 2010

in communication

the other morning my eldest announced, “today’s the first day of spirit week! it’s going to be so fun. we get to take off our shoes and pants!” that awakened me faster than the high-test coffee i was slurping. after i sputtered an anxious “what?!,” she repeated herself. turns out that’s not what she said at all.

“we get to take off our shoes and dance.”

since checking the understanding of far-flung employees isn’t as quick and easy as chatting across the breakfast counter, use these 8 techniques to make sure your communications are understood:

  1. use writers who know what you’re talking about. if they don’t, nobody else will either.
  2. write for understanding, not impressing. employees shouldn’t need a dictionary, a lawyer, or a decoder ring to understand what you’re telling them.
  3. stick to the meat. focus on any steps employees need to take and when they need to take them. be sure to identify what employees should stop, start, or continue doing.
  4. add stories and provide scenarios. show what it means IRL (in real life) and at all levels.
  5. acknowledge different learning styles. use multiple approaches to communicate: visual, audio, and experiential.
  6. rely heavily on online communications. they’re quick to upload and even quicker to edit.
  7. involve a diverse group of reviewers. find out early if what you think the communications say is what employees actually take away.
  8. confirm understanding. create a feedback loop, whether that’s a simple Q&A box, survey, or monitoring social sites.


Leave a Comment

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Steve Boese June 2, 2010 at 3:49 pm

Great list Fran – love it.


David Janus June 2, 2010 at 4:10 pm

I agree with Steve that it’s a great list. I especially like points 1 and 7 – these are two things that too often are overlooked.

I would take issue with one of your suggestions – number 6, “rely heavily on online communications.” I think there should be a caveat with this one, as there are some types of communications which may not necessarily lend themselves to being online. Maybe a better suggestion would be to consider what medium (or media) are most effective for delivering the information?


fran June 2, 2010 at 7:02 pm

thanks, steve and david.

and david, you’re right. i actually didn’t have #6 in my first draft and then stuck it in because the ease and cost-effectiveness of updating online text makes it an invaluable choice, in my book. it doesn’t mean you should use it to the exclusion of other avenues. you definitely want to consider the medium and the audience. i do *plenty* of print communications with my clients, particularly for those who have less tech-savvy employees, or for those times when you want a communication to stand out. nowadays, print accomplishes that far better. thanks for pointing this out to me and everyone else.



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