Increasing the Quality of Company Communications (Without Losing Your Personal Touch)

In this blog post, Carrie Brooks, a nationally recognized Merit Scholar and communications professional with a bachelor degree from University of Central Florida, Rosen College, highlights keys to keeping business messaging both interesting and professional.  Carrie has recently joined the Attain Marketing team and will be providing public relations program support as well as uncovering new strategic opportunities for our clients.  Welcome to the team, Carrie!

There is a fine line that must be walked when attempting to produce written communications or give verbal presentations that are both professional and personal.  It is far too easy to stray too far in one direction or the other – professional to the point of being dull and “boring” or so personal to the point of… well… missing the point entirely.  Let’s consider some things to keep in mind while developing company communications that can both catch your audience’s attention AND convey a professional message.

“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.”

-Vince Lombardi

Years ago I worked for a small investor and public relations firm.  It was the most unique and demanding work experience I’ve ever had.  One of the rules in our firm was that the CEO of the company must be copied on every email (yes, every single email) that left the confines of our office walls.  In addition, our CEO demanded absolute perfection – in spelling, grammar, and (most importantly) how we said what we needed to say.  The first time I was summoned to her office to explain (defend) why I wrote a particular email, I quickly came to the realization that she actually did find time to read every message.

You can certainly imagine that this rule made us think long and hard about everything we wrote and usually made us sweat a little before we clicked the “Send” button.  If we had to communicate something particularly sensitive to a client, it was much easier for us to pick up the phone and make a call than to stand up to our CEO’s scrutiny over how we wrote our message.  In the moment, it was very intimidating.  Looking back – it was brilliant!

What did this teach us?  Quite a few things:

  • Quality – The quality of our written communications had to be at its very best, all the time, without exception.  This included our grammar and spelling, use of language, and consistency with formatting and messaging.
  • Necessity – This method kept us from reacting too quickly as situations arose.  We had to really think it through before we sent off an email, and we stayed very clear and to the point when we did.  Unnecessary messages were not sent.  Ever.
  • Permanence – We were reminded that anything we put in writing could always be used against us, or at least could always be referenced again in the future.  Therefore, we had to stand behind what we wrote – 100%.  Written communication that travels across the Internet is permanent.

In later years, I was able to apply these same principles to verbal communications as well, specifically when giving presentations to a live audience.  The bottom line: content for print and verbal distribution really can be entertaining and interesting while still maintaining a high degree of quality and excellence.

Specific Keys for Written Communications

  • Keep the quality high.  Attention to detail in writing is extremely important.  First impressions come across in writing just as much as they do in person.
  • Have a trusted colleague look over your work.  Make good use of track changes, comments, and other collaboration features in your software.  Sometimes a hard copy with a red pen and a highlighter is the best method!
  • Don’t be afraid to use punctuation to your advantage when trying to add a personal touch.  There’s nothing wrong with adding in (a few) unique punctuation marks that compliment your personal communication style… you’ve already seen quite a few in this blog post.
  • There are many ways to break up a whole page full of text to make it more interesting to read, such as quote boxes, bulleted lists, and unique page formatting.  Use them!

Specific Keys for Verbal Presentations

  • Be clear.  Clear messaging coupled with clear diction will help your audience follow along attentively and stay engaged.  Audience engagement, such as a show of hands or a response to a question, can be extremely valuable.
  • Open up with an attention-getter – a story, an incident, or something else that your audience can relate to.  At times, even a joke may be appropriate.  (Consider your audience carefully when deciding how to open.)
  • Remember, in most cases, it’s not about “you” or “your story” as much as it is about the company you represent – so you must find a way to tell the company’s story in a personal way without making it about you.
  • Many times a verbal presentation is supported by a slide show presentation.  There are various opinions on how simple or complex slides should be, but something to always remember is that you don’t want your audience so distracted by your slides that they tune out what you’re saying.  Slides are there to enhance your message.  When in doubt, keep it simple!

Clear, quality communications are a representation of your company and your people.  Taking care to think through what you write or say is a valuable tool in putting your best foot forward and representing your company well.  Perfection in this category is certainly impossible to attain, but excellence is something we can all strive for.  Adding a personal touch helps your audience connect with your business, so keep that balance in mind – professional communications with a personal touch is always a win for your company!