Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Don’t Eat the Toner: 7 Tips for Association Communicators

Do you ever read something and wonder what the writer is saying? Or, do you ever write something and wonder why the readers don’t understand what you mean?

Three distinctly different readings raised my attention and turned my thoughts to association communications.

1. Lucile Allen’s posting in Daily Guideposts about “product warning signs” made me laugh:
  •  On a blanket: “Not to be used as protection from a tornado.”
  •  On a carpenter’s electric drill: “Not intended for use as a dental drill.”
  •  On a hair dryer: “Do not use in the shower.”
  •  On a cartridge for a laser printer: “Do not eat toner.”
2. David Meerman Scott’s awesome book (The New Rules of Marketing and PR) talks about his “Gobbledygook manifesto.”

3. A research report for one of my clients gave stunning results showing that “what we say” is not “what they hear.”

While most of these examples deal with corporations or government agencies, I suspect we could find numerous examples in associations and nonprofits too!

In fact, here’s a nonprofit example from DSM’s book:
“The sustainability group has convened a task force to study the cause of energy inefficiency and to develop a plan to encourage local businesses to apply renewable-energy and energy-efficient technologies which will go a long way toward encouraging community buy-in to potential behavior changes.”

If you are a CEO or a communications director or a writer, what can you do about your organization’s content and readability?

Here are seven possibilities for you to consider:
  1. Start with your audience: Who are they? What are their interests? What is their preferred form of communications (print, email, Facebook, videos, etc.)?
  2. Have a purpose for your writing: inform, educate, persuade, entertain, sell.
  3. Write from your readers’ viewpoint not yours or your associations or the products/services you are trying to “sell.” Remember that all of us read, watch or listen from the WII-FM (What’s In It For Me?) perspective.
  4. Consider getting outside opinions ... several organizations have found significant value in contracting with a firm to conduct a “communications audit” ... a project to review all your communications, content and vehicles. 
  5. Make your writing “short, sweet and easy to repeat.” 
  6. Tell a compelling story that helps achieve your goals.
  7. Review and edit (that includes proofing!) ... be sure you are clear, drop the jargon, determine if you’ve met your goals.

No comments:

Post a Comment