I opted not to run this post yesterday because I figured there would be plenty of better Valentine-related posts. (And I agree with Gini Dietrich– Shonali Burke really blew it out of the water with her Valentine post!)
Although I am not a fan of the candy, I can’t help but think about the simplicity and directness of those peppermint candy hearts.
Maybe it’s the size and shape, but they all carry succinct messages in such a way that there is no mistaking what it means when one says “Be Mine” or “Love You.”
It got me thinking, since participating in a communications workshop last week, about effective interpersonal communications.
The course was a great refresher for any communications pro about what affects our communications in everyday life. Things like:
- How personal attitudes toward the sender, receiver or the subject being discussed can act as a communication barrier.
- Cultural, social, or behavioral contexts may affect our ability to communicate and listen to others.
- How emotions can (and do) affect how we communicate or react to others.
- Nonverbal communications may counter-act our communication intention and affect the communication impact.
You get the picture.
But what I found most interesting from the workshop was a discussion on how the contextual setting affects our interpersonal communications.
Let’s go back to those seasonal candy hearts…
If I give my husband a candy heart with the phrase “Love You” imprinted on it, I’m sure he’ll get the picture that I am clearly communicating that him I love him.
Now, if instead I say “love you” to my husband, with no candy aid, he may have a different interpretation.
What was my body language communicating when I said that phrase? Did I make eye contact with him? What was going on in the background when I said it? Was he even listening to me in the first place?
If all conditions were not perfect when I utter those words, it can easily lead to a communication breakdown.
We all know where communications breakdowns can occur. Even if you’re not in the communications profession, it’s pretty easy to spot them.
Remember in high school when you analyzed every single verbal and non-verbal cue from your crush?
Or perhaps you couldn’t understand your professor’s feedback to your papers in college.
It all goes to the heart of the matter (no pun intended) that communications are highly complex and there is no one way to go about approaching what is and isn’t effective about communications.
To that end, I would highly recommend taking a periodic course or seminar on communications from time to time, even if you are immersed in communications work.
We could always use some time to step back and remind ourselves of how complex communications can be.
What do you think can help or hinder effective interpersonal communications? Any personal or professional stories you can share?
And with that, I shall close my somewhat Valentine-inspired post with a musical conclusion:
Have you ever noticed how the daily corporate vernacular takes on war-like characteristics?
“Let’s divide and conquer this project.”
“It’s time to take a deep dive into this story for better content.”
“Be ready to hit the ground running when the corporate announcement goes out.”
Don’t worry, I’m not going to complain about corporate speak again.
(But seriously, I could do a “part two” of that post in a millisecond…)
No, this post is about a little piece of paper I have kept taped to my cubicle or attached to a bulletin board for more than five years now.
What is this little piece of paper, you ask?
It’s a photocopy of a Power Point presentation handout from a “Lunch and Learn” by one of the partners of a communications agency where I worked previously.
He presented about how a pharmaceutical product comes to market, from research and development to marketing and launch. But the part that stuck with me during his presentation was his explanation of objectives, strategies and tactics.
He explained the objective-strategy-tactic relationship like going to war in one slide and then in more real-life healthcare marketing terms in the next.
And sometimes, creating a strategy document to a challenge or an opportunity is a lot like creating a plan of attack.
Here are the combined examples with the partner’s definitions of objectives, strategies and tactics:
Objective: Goal with a measurable endpoint
Ex 1: Take the bridge over the river from the enemy by noon tomorrow.
Ex 2: Convince 75% of opinion leaders to participate in product trials within 12 months.
Strategy: Means used to achieve the objective
Ex 1: Persuade the enemy they will die if they don’t surrender.
Ex 2: Use peer influence to persuade opinion leaders they will not be on the “cutting edge” unless they participate.
Tactics: Tools used to execute the strategy
Ex 1: Parachute in elite troops beyond the bridge overnight; constant sniping; frontal assault in the early morning; rear assault by elite troops once the frontal assault has the enemy’s full attention.
Ex 2: Invitational advisory boards chaired by regional authorities; white papers; direct requests by known experts; solicitation by patient advocacy groups.
See how the battle escalates through the stages from objectives to tactics?
A lot of myadjustment to working in alumni relations has been about thinking about this new line of work with the same mindset I developed working in PR and corporate communications for many years.
The first step I learned when approaching a project has always been with asking myself—what are the objectives? What is the strategy? How will we reach those goals?
Then, I consult my little piece of paper with the two slides from that partner’s presentation that I have memorized over the years.
But whether we’re writing a new product launch proposal or an outline for an alumni speaker series, the guiding principles of these three pillars remains the same.
We should always have a goal in mind and determine what we want to accomplish from the start.
Then, we can build a plan of attack (or simply a plan, if you’re not partial to the military jargon) to achieve those goals.
That’s not to say strategies or tactics may be off in reaching our goals. And that’s okay. You can look at your objectives again and design new strategies and tactics around it.
The idea here is to keep challenging ourselves to build better plans and to keep challenging ourselves not only as communicators, but as strategic thinkers.
Sometimes, just knowing we are capable of reaching real, tangible goals is what it is all about.
And knowing is half the battle….sorry, I just couldn’t resist throwing that in at the end here!
What do you think of this presentation of planning? How do you approach a project and set your objectives, strategies, or tactics?
There has been quite the Internet meme going around lately.
It’s all about stuff, or to put it into more colloquial terms, sh*t, people say to other people.
And with all the variations on the Internet, it’s quickly becoming the “New Haircut” of 2012.
I first caught a few of the “Sh*t Girls Say” episodes via Twitter.
A few weeks later, I caught sight of the “Sh*t Girls Say to Gay Guys” on Facebook.
Then, last week, a PR agency really hit it home with a video about “Stuff PR People Say”
I admit, of all the “Sh*t (insert category here) Say” videos, the PR one resonated the most with me. I watched it; I laughed; and I tweeted it. (Look, I even posted a copy of the video on my blog.)
But all these sh*t people say videos made me think —are we really just caricatures to other people? How does our communication and perpetuation of behaviors result in how others perceive us?
Perception as a result of our words or actions is important. As communications professionals, we are challenged to get to the point and be clear in what we want our target audiences to do.
The constant stream of information in short form via social media and mobile technology only adds to the necessity to be clear in our communications, in both the professional and casual setting.
But if we use sh*t when we communicate, such as buzzwords or corporate speak in press releases or talking points, then we might just as well perpetuating the party line.
The more I think about it, the more I realize that what I said when I worked in a PR agency reflects stuff said in that video.
I would watch, listen, and learn from others in my environment what was acceptable language. I would use the accepted lexicon within that world, but do I ever use those same phrases in another context?
Not likely. But it’s not like there’s anything wrong with that.
We’re all human and learn from our environments, so this is not a tirade against the sh*t people say to other people videos.
If anything, their popularity made me realize just how susceptible we are to our surroundings and cultural norms.
So, perhaps all this sh*t we say is not really helpful with regard to perpetuating cultural norms and professional in-jokes jokes. But it makes a pretty entertaining Internet meme.
What do you think—are we victims of our communications environments when we perpetuate this “stuff”? How can communications professionals avoid saying too much sh*t in the professional environment?