By: Marcel M. Robles, Editor-in-Chief
Organizations must communicate with many types of audiences that require constant, personalized, and engaging communication. In addition, employees need different forms of information than community leaders and customers do. To communicate effectively, the sender must identify the purpose of the message, analyze the audience, determine the medium and format of communication, and use the “you” viewpoint. Some messages are better conveyed in writing for comprehension, documentation, or reference; other messages are more powerfully shared visually, interactively, digitally, or orally. Effective communication is meaningful, purposeful, and contextual, as well as accurate, clear, precise, relevant, logical, complete, and courteous.
Much of our communication needs to be in written format to formalize agreements, create a record of exchanges, or enable a large number of readers around the world to know us and our work. However, in contrast to speaking, writing does not come naturally; it takes time and effort to write well. Strategic writing approaches, writing style format, and several writing drafts can help anyone become a better writer.
Oral communication and presentations are also vital to organizations. Preparing and overcoming speaking anxiety, designing and incorporating visual aids and music, delivering the message, and using nonverbal communication cues are critical for effective oral communication. Preparation is key to any presentation! The presenter must know the topic and the audience demographic. What does the audience already know, and what does the audience need to know? Designing effective visual aids includes selecting color combinations with good contrast and resolution, font size and type, and transitions and animation, as well as balancing the number of bells and whistles.
Technology has had an enormous impact on how we work and communicate, both within and outside of the workplace. Technology is used to share messages and information and for meetings and productivity. To achieve professional success, it is essential to use technology effectively to reach communication and organizational goals.
People have many differences that challenge what we know and what we accept as norms. We need to respect and celebrate these differences while blending our vast, nuanced talents into a synergy in which the whole is far greater than the sum of its parts. Through accessibility, we can accommodate people with diverse needs by finding workarounds to how things are typically done. We understand this in very concrete, specific ways, such as making it possible for people with physical challenges to enter buildings and for people who have visual, hearing, or motor challenges to access course materials and content. When any people are hindered from fulfilling their potential, it diminishes all of us. Diversity is about difference: What makes us unlike one another? There are times when any category may be underrepresented; in these cases, we need a way to find and blend all our disparate strengths - and this can be done through inclusion. Our initial answer may be that we need to achieve perfect equality, where all people should be treated the same and all should be given exactly the same experience and opportunities, but this assumes that all people start from the exact same place. If we take this approach, the achievement and equality gap will remain the same or could become even larger. What we need instead is equity. Equity is seeing that people have what they need to compete fairly.
In addition, it is critical for organizations to develop vision and mission statements within ethical boundaries, including a green action plan toward sustainability. Effective political communication is necessary for using value-based activist language from an environmentalist perspective, protecting the public with good policy statements, and communicating positive versus negative political action.
Crisis management requires communicating in situations that affect an organization’s relationships with its stakeholders, particularly in situations that draw media attention. A major goal of crisis communication is to maintain or repair a company’s positive image, manage its reputation, and protect its brand. The type of crisis determines the organization’s choice of communication strategy. If the crisis is internally generated, the company must acknowledge responsibility. A crisis caused by external factors, such as natural disasters and other events beyond an organization’s control, requires a different set of communication strategies. Whether the crisis is internally or externally generated, crisis response strategies depend on the number of people affected, the size of the crisis response team that can be mobilized, and communication channels available to the team to reach stakeholders quickly and easily.
Personal branding, or self-branding, is a promotional device for professionals seeking to maximize opportunities that can advance self-actualization and career goals. Personal branding is an investment in yourself, much like education and training. It is a marketing plan that you can use to start and stay on track. Name recognition suggests that someone can acknowledge having previously seen or heard of your professional name, without necessarily having referent points of your personal characteristics or attributes. It is important to belong to the correct networks and be associated with the right industry and companies from the perspective of others evaluating your personal brand. For professionals in industries requiring certifications and accreditations (e.g., accountants, financial advisors, nurses), the associations are particularly powerful because they convey trust and credibility. Ultimately, trust and credibility create a reputation that will communicate positive signals to others about your brand.
Communication skills can help you with your job search and beyond, in creating a professional presence, applying and interviewing for a job, following up, and starting a new job. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that, at the best of times, you will be joining 6 million people looking for jobs in the United States. At the worst, you’ll be one of 15 to 20 million job seekers. Therefore, it is critical that you are prepared for the job search and for when job search communication does not go exactly as you expect. For example, when an employer does not follow up after an interview, successful job searchers readjust their expectations and their communication strategy.
Once you have a job, two of the most necessary skills for success are communication and interpersonal skills. A common attribute of people who enjoy a successful career is their ability to persuade and pass on information to others. As communicators, we must identify the purpose of the message, analyze our audience, strategize, organize, and disseminate information for employees and others to grasp the intended message with understanding. In Purpose and Strategy in Communication, you will learn how to determine the most strategic approach to communication in a given situation, either direct (deductive) or indirect (inductively), depending on the tone of the message (e.g., positive, neutral, or persuasive). In addition, you will learn to put yourself in the shoes of the person you’re communicating with to anticipate the recipient’s reaction to your message and treat them the way you would want to be treated.