Archives for category: Communication Questions

More questions.

Because what is fun about knowing all of the answers?

When I was in college, my favorite classes were the ones that I felt comfortable asking questions in. There were certain classes that were structured to be a forum; an ongoing conversation. In those classes, I felt the most engaged and would go the extra mile to find out what questions I should be asking. By finding out what those questions were, I was able to discover the answers that really matter.

When I started my job hunt, I asked the professionals I knew for advice and guidance. In fact, at my last college internship, I emailed the entire office with a list of “lingering questions” before I left. I was searching for the right questions to ask, so that come time to interview, I would have the right answers.

Now that I am officially a communications professional, working in the real world, I am searching; Not for answers, but again, for the right questions.

Voltaire once said “Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.” And that is an adage I want to live by. As I take that next step in my career, I will not forget what got me here. I will wear that Voltaire quote on my sleeve, and I will also remember a little tidbit Socrates mentioned: “Question Everything.”

I believe those two quotes will guide me to success.

So what is your best question? I’d like to hear it.

My blog  just turned 40.

Like most that experience age 40, my blog is questioning itself in a weird mesh of reflection and bewilderment.

“How has there already been 40 posts?”

“Ugh, those paragraphs aren’t as tight as they used to be.” 

“Have I, after 40 posts, been successful?”

The interesting thing is that I feel a forty-year old would come to terms with the above comments much like I am coming to terms with this blog. A lot has happened over the time period of those 40 posts. The writing may not be as ambitious or written with the same intellectual vigor, but it has developed a tone; it now has structure. And yes it has been successful. It may not have won any awards, but it has carried a message, and has been received well by people.

So… am I supposed to buy a Corvette now or something?

Well, my blog is 40, not me, so I think the Corvette will have to wait. But in the meantime I do have some ideas for what I am going to do:

       1.     I am going to write to an audience, an audience that will listen.

When I started this blog it was intended to demonstrate that I was familiar to blogging, and meant to be a device to help me develop my writing skills. But I got tired of writing to some mythical job recruiter, and I decided to focus on writing to people who can identify with me. I will continue to offer this blog as a tool to recent graduates, employment seekers, and emerging communications professionals.

       2.     I am going to tell a story.

As I look back on some of my past writing, I realize that my best posts reveal something to the reader, and give them something that they can feel. A persuasive argument has no emotion, but an inspiring story can be quite persuasive and can hit people in the gut, where it really counts.

       3.     I am going to continue to strive for excellence.

While I feel I have made great strides in my writing, I want more. I want to engage a readership. I want to see a conversation take place via comments sparked by a thought-provoking post. I want people to tweet about my posts; to ignite conversations of their own. I want my pursuit of betterment to make other people better.

I do realize that those are some pretty lofty goals. But how else do you achieve greatness other than by setting the bar high?

I am fortunate though, to know what I need to do to achieve those goals: Listen. I will listen to criticism, I will listen to advice, and I will listen to my audience to make my online presence, worth something to others.

There is one more thing that I will try do start doing more frequently; leave with a call-to-action. So I say this to you: write. Write with everything you got. Put your head down on a piece of paper; punch out your thoughts on a keyboard. And if you are already doing that, great. Show me what you got. Share your writing with me, as I share with you. So that by the time you and I turn 40, our achievements will allow us to afford that Corvette.

If you are in the professional communications field and are worth your salt, you “know your audience.”

You have probably heard that phrase so much that you instinctively nod at the words like one of Pavlov’s dogs. But it isn’t the phrase you need to be worrying about, the thing you should concern yourself with is what that means.

Can you define what it is to know your audience?

What does that mean? Does that mean you know what kind of coffee they drink in the morning? Does that mean you know if they prefer flip-flops or running shoes?

Knowing your audience is a phenomena that extends beyond their superficial preferences. It is something that sticks to their soul. It is not knowing that they like a bold blend of coffee with two french vanilla creamers, it is knowing that they like that because that is what their grandmother drank when she visited every Thursday morning.

Being able to hit the audience on a sensory level creates a bond between you and them. It provides your audience with that feeling “it just feels right.” Whether you are trying to persuade in a political argument or just trying to get hired, it is understanding that feeling your audience gets that is key. You need to know why that person is not in favor of gun control, or why that employer is excited when you said you prefer Linux over Microsoft.

Next time you are communicating with an audience of any kind, remember that you need to be able to do more than just picture that person in your head; their quirks and idiosyncracies. You need to know why they have those ins-and-outs so that you can connect on a completely different level.

Photo Property of Kimmy Chau

Is that really what I wanted to say?

Or was it something that just came to mind. Was is something that others were saying, so I just assumed it correct to say as well? Was what I was saying really saying anything at all?

How do I know?

People encode messages into language everyday; thousands of them. We put so many thoughts into words that it becomes habitual. We begin to assume that people know our thoughts so well, that we can just sprout them into semantic clusters that hit on the exact interpretation we meant for them.

Obviously that is utter nonsense. Because the one thing that is more likely to happen than misspeaking, is misinterpreting.

So what is the point?

The point is to know what you want to say, before even trying to say it.

So before you send that text; make that Facebook comment; tweet those 140 characters, read what you write. Listen to your thoughts,  and understand your message, so that when you put it out there it has a chance of being taken correctly.

This concept is one of the most deceptive ideas possible; that you can really understand what it is that you are truly thinking and feeling. To do so, one must almost unlatch themself from their own emotions. However if you can somehow get to that point, than it makes it much more feasible  to strategically encode that message into letters and symbols.

Note that this message applies to all messages, both big and small, both your own message and for your company’s message. So think before you speak, and ponder before you act. Because with time always ticking away, your message is worth sending correctly on the first try; it may be the only chance you get.

There is too much clutter in world. Information overload used to be something you have to attempt to achieve, now you need to take extreme effort to avoid. A simple and longstanding premise has come to the forefront as the only solution to this; make it look simple.

The world is becoming more and more aestheticized to handled the new depth of information available to us.

This movement towards aesthetization can be seen in practically every aspect of our lives. People are supposed to look clean and appealing at all times. Magazines are supposed to have limited content and maximum visual appeal. And business presentations have never looked more artistic.

It is true that if we were just handed material with nothing but content we would never read; never learn. That is why it is imperative to have a collaborative mesh between creatives and content makers.

There is a mesh between creativity and content that is needed to make an impact.

I have seen more PR job openings looking for web developer/bloggers than one could ever imagine. I think that having the content maker be the designer and vis-versa is a direct path for failure. If someone holds that job, then half the time they will be serving a purpose that is not authentic to who they truly are.

Half PR Pro + Half Graphic Designer = Half-Assed Message 

There is a negotiation between aesthetics and content, one that I think is always needed to really deliver a message that has both cognitive and visual stimulus. I hope those people asking for all-in-one employees remember this and understand that such a case really negates collaborative creativity possibilities and will ultimately not enable their message to rise through the clutter.

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