In a previous life I worked as a communications professional in the political sphere. My role was to act as the gatekeeper between the world of policy and that of the general public. I translated academic verbiage into language that was simple, meaningful and inspiring – a noble task, but not an easy one.
One day, I had a conversation with a policy analyst who referenced the gap between his work, and the public’s awareness. His research and recommendations to government were meant to foster community development, but the transfer of information often ended when he submitted a final report to the government. He felt that if more people knew what he was doing, more positive change would be accomplished. Part of the problem was a disconnection between policy-speak, and plain English. His work was available to the public, but only academics, or highly engaged constituents were interested. The gap between his work and the public needed to be filled. Communications professionals fill this void by creating a bridge between the client and the audience.
All too often there is no one present to build this bridge. Businesses, governments and non-profit organizations may a) ignore their audience’s needs b) address their needs but forget to invest in implementing a communications plan or c) don’t really want their audience to know what they’re saying.
As receivers of these messages – we, the audience – enable lax communications by allowing it to remain unchallenged. We place a value on jargon because we think it must be important; that the person speaking must be an expert. We don’t ask questions for fear of sounding stupid. We don’t challenge messages that are shallow or unclear.
I recently watched a TED talk by Alan Sigel, one of the most well-known branding professionals in the business. After decades of work he’s become a champion of “clear” communications. In his talk, “Let’s simplify legal jargon!” he charges businesses and governments to build humanity into their communications; to use plain English as a means to achieve clarity, transparency and empathy with their audience.
We at Hardy Stevenson have always acted as champions of clear communications – working with municipalities, engineers and other stakeholders, to create vivid, compelling communications for the public. We do this because a successful project is a successful people project. Open, transparent, engaging communications creates the buy-in needed to deliver projects on time and on budget. It also allows the audience to make educated choices that will positively affect their lives, and their community. It’s a win-win.
What’s your message? How can we help you translate it?
Bryna Jones is the Director of Communications at Hardy Stevenson and Associates Limited, and a member of the International Association of Business Communicators. Bryna’s project experience includes communications and marketing planning, advocacy campaign development, social media strategy, government relations, and project management. She also has considerable experience in copy writing and public speaking.