Effective communications are the backbone of any successful business. Whether we’re selling
informing, promoting or educating we all have to communicate to survive – so why do so many businesses get it wrong? English was never my strong point at school, but during my relatively short business career I’ve listened carefully and learned from the wealth of advice that’s available. I know that:
- A business communication should avoid talking
about ‘me’, ‘us’ and ‘we’; preferring to engage the reader with ‘you’ and ‘your’.
- It’s better to get someone from outside my business to write my website and newsletter copy – even though I have a degree in journalism.
- I should avoid writing long sections of text and use bullet points and headers to help the reader have a comfortable reading
With all this knowledge readily available for free, why do I continue to be bombarded with junk mail, newsletters, twitter connections and emails that do all the above and more – ensuring a speedy trip to my deleted
folder or my bin!
Rant over…. sorry!
What I’d really like to investigate today are the more subtle ways we can try and ensure that our business communications, whether text or video can be more engaging to all of our readers – and it’s much more complicated than I ever appreciated. In my role as a school governor over recent years I have seen attitudes and teaching methods shifting to policies that accommodate all learning styles; visual, auditory and kinaesthetic.
- Visual learners are happy seeing and reading as
in the traditional school environment we probably all remember from our school days. They respond well to pictures and diagrams.
- Auditory learners are more comfortable listening and speaking – so discussing and debating issues, and asking questions. Sound and noises can also be useful learning tools
- Kinaesthetic learners are most effective when they are touching, doing or holding – I can relate to this myself from my
geography A level course when I’m pretty sure that I passed the final exam on the strength of my learning from various practical field trips – not the lessons and text books.
For more information on this and a free test to discover
your own preferred learning, visit: http://www.businessballs.com/vaklearningstylestest.htm. My own preferred style is a mixture of visual and kinaesthetic. Many of us will prefer
a mixture of learning styles and an internet search reveals various statistics on how the population is divided. The
following diagram is representative of the consensus, with the majority of us having a visual or kinaesthetic bias and a lower percentage preferring auditory
Bringing this back to business communications where we are
trying to promote and inform about our products or services, can we afford to ignore the 20 – 25% of the population who prefer sound and speech by promoting our services using only text and images? How many websites do you come across that don’t have either video or audio content?
How do we engage with each other online?
Interested in how such findings might affect the way we
interact with online networking and social media sites I instigated a ’straw poll’ on Ecademy, the online business networking
site. As is common with such sites businesses and individuals are encouraged to construct a profile that is likely
to attract connections, build a network and ultimately find new business. Admittedly this is not scientific research,
simply a few questions in a blog that will only have been read and commented on by people who read blogs – so probably not those who prefer an auditory experience!
The blog was posted twice to give it a better chance of
reaching more people. It was viewed 2,767 times, and received 76 unique responses after discounting repeats and replies. The question was simple:
“How do you read someone’s profile; what attracts you, why do
you stay and what turns you off?”
More than one third of the contributors look for a
photograph first while nearly half consider a photograph as part of their decision on whether to continue reading. More than 10% said that they would not look at a profile that does not contain a photograph. The next highest criteria in the decision to stay or go is the content of the opening few lines
of text. Ecademy members are encouraged to write 50 individual words that represent them and these are indexed for
search. Some Ecademists consider the 50 words as an overview of the person and make a decision to engage based on these along with the photograph. The next most popular category at around 20% was the need for a professional and interesting layout.
The overall message was clear: most people want to engage
with another person – a human being – and look for personal compatibility and common/relevant interests as well as business opportunities. You have to grab them with a professional
positive photograph, and a well thought out opening paragraph that gives them an idea as to who you are as well as what you do. For Ecademy users this can be achieved through their 50 words, although some contributors to the blog completely
ignore the 50 words so my advice would be to work on your opening paragraph as well as the fifty words.
You will see from my own Ecademy profile here
that I have chosen a selection of words that encompass the whole of me, while the primary text is business focussed. I
rely on my short introductory video to let the human being shine through! The great benefits of video in this
environment is that it is attractive to both visual and auditory visitors, and it contains a whole load of non-verbal information through which the viewer will make unconscious decisions on whether they like you, and even if they might
like to do business with you…
The turn-offs when visiting profiles are:
- No photograph
- Overt selling without an effort to engage
- Negative statements saying ‘don’t contact me if
- Too much dense text without breaks or images
- No significant content – looks like you can’t be
As a creator of business communications the conclusions I
draw from combining the results of this ‘straw poll’ with my understanding of preferred styles of learning (engagement
in business communication terms) is that we have to engage with individuals rather than corporate entities. A communication is more effective if it is from a human being who shares a part
of their own personality and their passion for the business, rather than an impersonal message from ‘the company’. In
video terms this means that we always try and get somebody from within the business to present the core message, as opposed to the traditional corporate video technique of using a voice over artist or actor – neither of whom can demonstrate their true understanding and passion of the business.
We should also always try to include elements of visual, auditory and kinaesthetic into all our communications if we want to be ‘heard’. Of course doing this via a newsletter is a challenge, so you could think about adding interesting links
that contain audio and video to activate the visual and auditory. Encouraging your readers to take part in
some way will help to engage the kinaesthetic readers – for example, I have linked to the test above and the action of taking the test will appeal to a sector of my audience.