24 February 2011

Keep It Simple Stupid!

A few years ago I came across this thought provoking statement for the first time. It was used in the context of a communications plan, and it was referred to as the KISS principle (the first letters of Keep IT Simple Stupid, obviously). It is such a nice phrase to use in discussions about communication plans, as it always provokes a reaction; it always puts people off guard. I have noticed so often that people really started to pay attention when this principle was thrown into the discussion.

The great thing about the KISS principle is – of course- that everybody immediately knows what you are talking about. In the corporate environment we often tend to make things far too complicated. Managers often feel that their messages need to show that they really know what they are doing.

So often does this tendency lead to phenomena like what I like to call ‘PowerPoint Body Building’. “Hey, look how complicated this chart is. I manage this, and I know all the details”. So, OK, you got muscle, but what was it that you were trying to say to us, because we are totally lost here…

Another issue with many managers or project leaders is that they just want to communicate too much. You don’t need to cover all your areas, just focus on what is important to your audience. Communication is very much about what you don’t say!

When I make a communications plan, I usually try to get the KISS principle (spelled this way, and just explained once) in the communication strategy part of the plan. It is a great phrase to refer to whenever people make things too complicated. Everyone knows immediately what you mean when you give feedback.

Anyone any other examples of principles that they use? I’d be curious to hear about them.

17 February 2011

Sorry, we don’t speak English here

English is the business language in the corporate environment, no question about it. I hope my German and French readers don’t feel offended, but this is reality in the global village that we call world.

If we were to look at the communications profession as a toolkit, language (so, in the corporate world, the English language) is our most important tool.

O.K, this is a given, but I’d like to point out two things that we sometimes tend to forget in our daily practice.

1 Native English speakers have a huge advantage over non-native speakers. I am Dutch, so I spend most of my days communicating in a foreign language. My English is in reasonable shape, but clearly, I miss many nuances as a result of the fact that I am not communication in my native tongue. If you are a native English speaker, please take into consideration how difficult it can be for a foreigner to communicate in a foreign language.

2 I think we, as communications professionals, should stress more and more that we need to train people to master the corporate language. It never fails to amaze me that we keep hiring people in a corporate environment that don’t master our preferred language at least at a basic level.

Well, I hope I did not make too many mistakes in this blog post. Native speakers, please forgive me, and if you want to see a real funny example of what I just wrote, just watch this hilarious video.

01 February 2011

A communications plan is not a communications calendar

It is the core of our job: a communications plan. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you might recognize that I challenge current practices every now and then. Here is one that you might recognize. Too often I see communication plans that have just two elements: a stakeholder analysis and a communications calendar. I have seen some (well, many…) consultancy firms in my day doing just that.

The element that is too often missing is the communications strategy. OK, so we have this project. Do all project members agree on the core messages? Given the stakeholder analysis, what should our strategy be? Why do we come up with the media mix in the communications calendar? I have seen numerous plans state that they want to engage their stakeholders. Then, when I read the calendar, there are newsletters, intranet pages and kick-off meetings planned. You don’t engage people using digital media and presentations... OK, I know many of these consultants just copy and paste from their previous assignment. If you are a consultant: use a better template! If you want to hire a consultant, check if their communications plans are more than just communications calendars. Our profession is becoming mature, you know