Communication: It's the life blood of business, right along with cash flow and branding.
"If you have a gift for the spoken and written word, you will always put your best foot forward," workplace expert and author Lynn Taylor wrote in a Forbes.com article, "The 20 People Skills You Need to Succeed at Work." (Nov., 15, 2013)
"Being articulate is highly prized in today's workplace, when time is at a premium and technology requires constant communication," she wrote.
Yet communication can be tricky — especially when you are trying to communicate directly to your employees and customers. The communication style you use can make all the difference. Here are some examples of how to communicate strategically.
Verbal humor: Sometimes you need an attention getter that only verbal humor can provide. When you have something to say that could be controversial, humor can be the "sugar" that makes the medicine go down. It is most effective when it is creative and unexpected.
On a recent Southwest Airlines flight, an attendant was going through the usual patter about safety precautions, equipment and what to do during an emergency. He employed the typical Southwest humorous style to get our attention:
For those of you who must smoke during this flight, please use the exits on either side of the plane. We invite you to stand on the wing. There you will be treated to the modern version of Gone With the Wind.
Lots of laughter. He got his point across.
Written communication: Watch your words. What is the situation and who is your audience? Thanks to the proliferation of email, texting and all forms of social media, many people get lazy about their written communication. It's easy to forget that what you write is not just a message. It reflects who you are and how you present yourself.
Also, given business standards for record keeping, it will live forever. Tailor your wording, style and degree of formality to the audience, the situation and the importance of the communication. And, yes, spelling and punctuation do count.
Face-to-face communication: Talking directly with another person is a two-way street. You can hear the tone, inflections and volume. You can see the facial expressions, hand movements and posture.
So, when you are going to talk to someone on a one-on-one basis, or when you are making a presentation to a group, take some time to plan your communication style.
Is this the right vehicle for your message? Are you choosing the words, expressions and body language that will best convey your message and elicit the response you want? Are you giving your audience the time and space to respond?
Peter Guber, film producer and chairman and CEO of Mandalay Entertainment, said, "Nothing replaces being in the same room, face-to-face, breathing the same air and reading and feeling each other's micro-expressions."
Marie R. Stempinski is president and founder of Strategic Communication in St. Petersburg. She specializes in public relations, marketing, business development and "encore career" consulting for people over 50. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.