September 24, 2014 ↘︎

Communication – the 7th essential skill of a digital planner.

Have you ever got half way through a discussion and realised that everyone in the room has entirely different perceptions of what it is you’re talking about?

It’s really surprising how terms considered to be common place can easily take on entirely different meanings.

Communication – an essential part of the digital strategist’s skill-set

bud caddell digital strategy

I adore Bud Caddell’s definition of an effective digital strategist, particularly the need for strategists to have an obsessive curiosity of brand, business, culture, behaviours, technology and production (as taken from his Digital Strategy 101 presentation above) – but I think the art of communication is certainly a too often overlooked skill that strategists need to develop and nurture.

Here are my top tips to perfecting the art of communication in digital, so that you can avoid confusing your stakeholders.

1. Avoid ‘term slippage’.

Without a shared definition placed on the table ‘term slippage’ will throw your idea entirely off course.

In such a new and quickly evolving industry, new acronyms and definitions pop up every day. As a digital ‘expert’ it’s your role to know and stand by the terms of the industry.  But in an eagerness to be across the latest digital trends you may find yourself using new language, and too often these terms are poorly explained and not fully understood by those that matter.

Your stakeholders rely on you to be the expert of all things digital. So when you talk about digital concepts you need to explain them in context of the wider world, because if you don’t, your grand ideas run the risk of the ultimate failure – being misunderstood. Their value to the organisation, and the customers you’re trying to reach will be lost.

2. Translate complex concepts in simple ways.

No one wants to hear how much you know, they just want to know what they need to know to get on with it.

When working in digital (especially data analytics) it’s easy to get carried away explaining the intricate details of complex concepts – but does your audience really need to know everything?  By focussing on the things that matter, you’re demonstrating your value as a ‘digital interpreter’, and taking responsibility for understanding the complexities so your stakeholders don’t have to.

3. Don’t get jammed on ‘transmit’.

Healthy relationships are all about maintaining fluid, two-way exchanges; that is to say we don’t get jammed on ‘transmit’ and equally we don’t get jammed on ‘receive’. Being an effective communicator and clearly conveying your idea is as much about having the perceptiveness to know when you need to get your point across, as it is knowing when it’s time to take a step back and really listen.

4. Use the ‘Jen from Accounting’ test.

If you can’t explain your idea in ways that ‘Jen from Accounting’ would understand, then you have no chance of capturing the hearts and minds of your audience (unless your audience is John from IT). Be empathetic, but don’t be condescending.

If they don’t understand your idea and the value it brings, it’s your failure, not theirs.

Perfecting the way you communicate will give your digital ideas a far healthier life expectancy.

In our eagerness to understand and explore the next big digital thing, and paying too little attention to the way we communicate, we often unknowingly railroad the people in the room that matter most.

By clearing your vocabulary of unnecessary jargon, avoiding term slippage, translating complex concepts in simple ways, and constructing fluid two-way exchanges you will find that you are able to tailor your language accordingly. Your ideas will have a far better chance of being properly understood, and ultimately come to life.

The content and advice contained in this post may be out of date. Last updated on September 24, 2014.
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