Skip links

5 Ways to Mind the [Communication] Gap

In her book on communication, Fierce Conversations, Susan Scott wrote, “Our work, our relationships, and our lives succeed or fail one conversation at a time.” Isn’t it a powerful thought that one conversation can transform a life, change a mind, or even alter someone’s destiny?

Conversation is easier for some people than others, yet everyone knows communication is important. And when you consider how technology has changed the way we communicate, you’d think it would be easier. But is it?

Digital Age Communication

The digital age provided easy access to information and more convenient methods of communication. Essentially, it changed everything.

It also presented a daunting set of choices that, depending on which generation you grew up in, made the adoption of these new-fangled forms of communication simple or impossible.

No longer do physical conversations need to take place, you can simply “search” online and get the information you need. People form opinions, vent their frustrations, make decisions, even purchase online without ever needing to talk face-to-face.

As a marketer, having the internet and all the digital tools at my disposal is invaluable. I also recognize that how I choose to communicate requires more careful consideration in order to be truly effective.

Here are 5 ways I’ve found that improve communication:
  1. Channels
  2. Gone are the days where channels referred only to TV stations. Today, there are countless channels of communication, from mobile phones, to texting, to emails, to Skype, to social networks, and everything in between. Seek to devise a strategy to optimize which channels you use to most effectively communicate your message. It is far too easy to hide behind a quick text or email. Base your decision on which channels to employ by knowing what others want, rather than what you think.

  3. Elephant in the room
  4. I have always liked this phrase. So let me ask you, what is the elephant in your room that everyone sees but no one is talking about? When you need to have conversations that are uncomfortable to communicate, be courageous with your conviction. Dr. Brené Brown, author, and researcher provides some insightful techniques when faced with conversations that stem from fear and criticism.

  5. Say what you mean, mean what you say
  6. Authenticity is vital in having true, honest conversations. In marketing, to be viewed as a thought-leader means your credibility is closely tied to how original and honest your communications are. Avoid using overused phrases like, “at the end of the day,” “hit it out of the park,” “circle back,”… you get the point. And whatever you do, avoid (at all cost) tacking on “-ish” to a word, e.g. noon-ish, blue-ish. Practice specificity.

  7. Engagement
  8. Much like a marriage proposal, engagement is the true indicator of making a committed connection with another person. Engagement is a two-way communication that has become seemingly more difficult to do.

    Why? As marketers, we have a number of ways to “get our message out.” This is one-way communication UNTIL someone responds to it. It can be in the form of a like, follow, share, or actual comment, but it must involve the act of doing something in return. If you look at your communications and find that you are scoring high on outreach but low in engagement, it is time to take a step back and assess what’s working and what’s not. Here, Pareto’s Principle, the 80/20 rule is relevant. Focus all your effort on the 20%!

    When it comes to engaging people, the one thing often overlooked is the importance of using a person’s name. One of my all-time favorite award-winning Vistage speakers, Michael Allosso, addresses this with brilliant wit and tact in his presentation, “You on Your Best Day.” He emphasizes using names when communicating with people. After all, we all have names. Use them. Steer clear of referring to someone by “him/her” or “he/she.” If you want to engage people in conversation, address them by their names. “Jim, when you have a minute, I would like to review the monthly report with you.” Take note over the course of a day how often people leave out using a name. This is particularly prevalent in email communication. How many times do you either see people using just the word “Hi” or “Hey” in email messages? Next time (and each time) include his/her name: “Hi Mary.”

  9. Voice of the customer
  10. Capturing the thoughts, insights, and opinions of your customers is paramount. Whether you’re conducting phone calls, evaluations, or using a Net Promoter System (NPS) survey, make sure it happens on a regular basis. Gather as much information as necessary to really understand the how, when, and why customers need and want to communicate with you.

    With today’s marketing automation platforms, it has become increasingly easy to de-personalize the communication experience and over-communicate. Once you collect customer preference information, customize it, make it relevant and timely, and, most importantly, put it into action.

    If the way in which you communicate has changed based on feedback from customers, let them know that. They will take notice of that. Trust me.

Communication is the fiber that keeps us all connected. The digital age had made it easier for some and not for others — don’t lose sight of continuing the conversation and remember that one single conversation can build, destroy, or flatline a relationship.

I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes by Stephen R. Covey.

Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

These are only a few of the ways to improve communication. Do you have any other tips you’d like to share? Comment below to share your insights!


Michelle Mariola is founder & director of ISH-Productions, a Chicago-based branding and marketing company whose mission is to help emerging to mid-market companies develop their marketing strategies and brand identities.