Fake news, facts exaggerated to fit a particular political story, news bytes so succinct salient facts are silently slid over, competing theories, all create a blizzard of news and noise that make clear communication challenging.
The challenges of clearly communicating in a forest of misinformation is not a new phenomenon, however, the rapidity with which information is spread and disseminated is new and it is this rapidity and sheer volume of information being communicated that make clear communication a challenge.
Clear communication starts with clarity about your market, that is the people you are communicating with. Organisations often start with the message they want to communicate and then consider the market. An example of this is occurred in some States with COVID information from government to culturally and linguistically diverse groups in the community. Although the message the government wanted to get across was clear lack of engagement with the ethnic communities, they wanted to reach meant communication was not clear and resulted in confusion and the information being mis-interpreted. An example where knowledge of the community results in clearer communication are politicians who do a lot of door knocking in their electorate. These politicians often have clear messaging because they know the concerns of people. They know their market.
As for-profit and not-for-profit organisations we need to know our market or clients. One of the things that stops us from really understanding our market or clients are our biases, particularly when we have worked in an industry or area of service delivery for a long period of time. We are convinced we know what our clients like or what will work in our market because we have been in the industry for 5, 10 or 15 years. Often our biases blind us to the fact our markets and clients shift, their needs change. Messaging that worked two years ago may no longer work, particularly when you are dealing with a younger demographic that is more likely to be influenced by wider trends within society.
We make assumptions about what we think we know, but do we really know what we think we know?
We need to check our biases and assumptions and know our market, so our messaging has the best chance of cutting through.
The other thing we forget with clear communication is, it is never just about the message. Why does so much misinformation appear to be accepted by otherwise rational, sensible people? Because the information they are accepting is not just about the facts, it is the emotional response it generates within them. Misinformation often thrives for other reasons, than the so-called facts contained in the information. For example, it can provide people with a sense of certainty, a sense they are one of the select few who really understand what it is happening. It provides a sense of belonging.
For people who are feeling disconnected, isolated and uncertain, messaging that provides certainty and a sense of belonging is powerful, even if the information is incorrect. Hence to communicate clearly our messaging has to create an emotional resonance with our clients or market, an emotional resonance that helps them to engage in the message we are communicating.