Principles of Effective Messages: Organization, Design, and Content

Principles of Effective Messages: Organization, Design, and Content

I.    PRINCIPLES OF TRANSPARENT COMMUNICATION

  • Good writing meets five reader needs
  • Graphic: strategy and tactics for organizing messages


GOOD WRITING MEETS FIVE READER NEEDS:

1.          Immediate insight into requirements of reader, that is, readers are able to understand what they are required to do with the document by the time they read the subject line, the first verb, and the opening section.

   Techniques:

  • Writing extremely clear, concise Subject Lines.
  • Using very clear first verbs.  These should allow the reader to know which of four ways to react to the document:  is the reader being asked to supply information?; is information being presented to inform the reader?; are hypotheses being tested and data analyzed and evaluated?; is a proposal being made requiring the reader’s approval?
  • Composing a first paragraph that accurately summarizes the topic covered and why it is important.  To be an accurate summary, it should answer the WHAT, WHY, WHEN, and other questions needed for a clear introduction to the document.

2.          Instant retrievability, the ability to find any topic or data the reader wishes to find through scanning, without having to read the entire document.

   Techniques: 

             Headings, Lists, Underlining, Boldface, Indenting, Introductory Forecasts, Clearly Labelled Tables, Easy-to-find Data.

3.          Easy comprehensibility, the ability of the reader to read a document once and gain an accurate understanding of it.

             Criteria:  reader must be able to understand document in a single reading.  If at any time the reader has to re-read information, it indicates the material could be more effectively organized.

   Techniques: 

  • Providing clear BACKGROUND, which reminds reader of antecedents and provides linkages with the last information the reader received on this subject.
  • Writing paragraphs deductively, in WHAT, WHY, DETAILS order.
  •  4.   Clear understanding of and ability to check whether the writer is making a logical argument.
  • Toplining Whats and often Whys, in sequentially and topically organized documents, followed by Details.
  • Toplining Whys in singularly focussed analysis and recommendation messages.
  • Toplining What and Whys in multi-topic analysis or recommendation messages.
  • Phrasing so that toplines develop a logical theme when scanned.
  • Using “good facts” to support arguments empirically.

5.          Documents show a clear understanding of the strategic requirements of author’s department, division, and overall organization.

Writing messages that show:

  • compelling benefits, such as increased share, volume, and profit; increased safety, reliability, security, or productivity; improved employee morale, or customer and consumer satisfaction.
  • a thoughtful risk assessment, a concise, yet well-researched evaluation of potential constraints.
  • alignment, a clear connection between the writer’s stated purpose and department, division, and company objectives.
  • consistency and constancy, an intent that is clear over time, which will result in a sustainable advantage.
  • core competency, a strategy that leverages resources to achieve goals, especially by using core competencies that reflect current and historical strengths.
  • customer and consumer focus, a perspective that shows a clear understanding of customer and consumer requirements.

STRATEGY AND TACTICS OF ORGANIZING MESSAGES

  What readers want at
each stage
How to accomplish this  
OPENING* Answers to 4 questions What is the point? What is the relevance to the com-pany? Should I read the whole message now or lat- er? Will this be an easy or a difficult document to mwhich to respond? Compose a precise subject line Make opening a concise summary of entire document that accurately predicts its content, including the What, the Why, and the When
Forecast body and next steps in
longer documents
BACKGROUND         Brief description of histor- ical context from which this topic emerged   Provide key facts that clarify why the document is being written now Summarize previous docu- ments on this topic
METHOD Clear description of methods List steps in chronological order
BODY * Easily scanned argument Clear hierarchy of ideas   Effectively used headings as “table of contents” of message
DATA ANALYSIS Sound argument and evi- dence to document claims Consistency among object-ives conclusions reasons, evidence, follow-up, and action steps   Number and underline key pre- mises Deductively order para- graphs Consistently clarify the Why Ensure arguments pass the “Because, Based On, Therefore” test Align with objectives & actions Indent to indicate higher level and lower level points
DISCUS SION   Answers to 2 questions: What constraints exist? What alternatives are there?   Explain constraints, risks List alternatives, explain why not chosen  
FOLLOW-UP   How will this be implemented?   Clarify the How, typically in list format
ACTION *  required element Answers to 4 questions: What do you want me to do? What are you going to do? What should others do? When will these ac- tions take place? Clarify the Who does What, When and Why questions Consistent with objectives and analysis  


Dr Clark is certified to teach Crucial Conversations and Crucial Accountability

Tools for Talking When Stakes are High.

Crucial Conversations is a course that teaches skills for creating alignment and agreement by fostering open dialogue around high-stakes, emotional, or risky topics—at all levels of your organization. By learning how to speak and be heard (and encouraging others to do the same), you’ll begin to surface the best ideas, make the highest-quality decisions, and then act on your decisions with unity and commitment.  See the following link for more information.  https://www.vitalsmarts.com/products-solutions/crucial-conversations/

Enhance Accountability, Improve Performance, and Ensure Execution.

Crucial Accountability is a two-day course that teaches a step-by-step process for enhancing accountability, improving performance, and ensuring execution. By learning how to talk about violated expectations in a way that solves problems while improving relationships, you’ll improve individual, team, and organizational effectiveness. See the following link for more information

https://www.vitalsmarts.com/products-solutions/crucial-accountability/

Positive Positioning In Telephone And Text Message Communication

Mark Twain observed that the difference between the right word and the wrong word is the difference between a fire and a fire fly. So when you speak to customers, suppliers, and co-workers on the phone or write to them in a text, commit yourself to using language that indicates you value them.

As an exercise, put yourself in the place of a message receiver and judge how you would react to the following alternative phrasings.

I don’t know vs. Let me make an inquiry and call you back.

We can’t do that vs. Let me tell you what we can do

Hang on a second vs. This might take 3-4 minutes. Do you want to hold or do you want to call me back?

• You’ll have to …vs. Here’s what we ask that you do and here’s how we will respond when you do

Can I put you on hold? I have somebody on my other line… I’ll have to call back. I have an important call on the other line vs. Can I call you back in a few minutes?

Who did you say your name was? vs. Would you please repeat your name?

Sorry I did not call you back yesterday; I was busy vs. Thank you for returning my call. I wanted to touch base with you about….

I called yesterday to see what you guys charge per hour vs. I called yesterday to find out what ABC charges per hour of on-site service.

A key to maintaining positive interpersonal relationships is shaping the language of your responses so they show respect to everyone who hears or reads them.

Limitations of PowerPoint & Storytelling for Critical Thinking

This blog briefly addresses two issues: 1) PowerPoint vs. Memos/Handouts and 2) Storytelling vs. Empirically-based Reasoning.

1.A PowerPoint presentation has inherent limitations that can impair its capacity to present logically complete arguments (when compared to memos). 1.It is design-centered rather than argument-centered, with an emphasis on layouts, company logotypes, and visual components–and room for a limited amount of text, including conclusions, rationales, data, and implications.
2.These features reduce the ability of creators and consumers of these slides to develop, defend, and evaluate whether the information communicated constitutes complete and coherent arguments, as compared to the creators and consumers of one-page memos. (See below).

2.The success criteria for a well-written one-page memo emphasize good thinking on paper, with a focus of audience-centered document design and argument. These criteria include 1.Through design and deductive reasoning, winning the all three moments of truth: skim, scan, and word for word.
2.Allowing readers to see a clear relationship between goals, findings/reasons, and steps.
3.Allowing readers to see if each claim, finding, or reason is supported by a clear rationale and data.

Storytelling vs. Empirically-based Reasoning
1.Storytelling is an excellent complement to, and not a replacement for, a well-reasoned argument. As the Heath brothers argue persuasively in Made to Stick, people remember stories, which serve as an excellent antidote to the “curse of knowledge,” a focus on facts so intense that the author loses sight of the need to consider reader preferences. On the other hand, stories, unsupported by facts, may lead readers to incorrect conclusions.

2.Writers should consider a variety of types of argumentation patterns in developing a coherent narrative for their proposals. These would include storytelling patterns, such as The Challenge Story (David vs. Goliath); the Compassion story (Good Samaritan); and the Creativity Story (McGyver), as well as more traditional argumentation patterns, including lead from strength, problem-cause-solution, and categorization (e. g, sales $$, geography, ROI).

Promoting Telemarketing Experience in Resumes and Job Interviews

Here are some qualities that you can promote on paper and orally if you have worked as a telemarketer.

Persuasive

  • Communicate effectively with customers from all wealth ranges
  • Skilled at building rapport and influencing others
  • Used a persuasive strategy of benefit statements, dealing with concerns, asking for a decision
  • Listen well with good attention to timing, attending to both facts and feelings
  • Used recognition successfully to motivate giving
  • Praised for clear, articulate speech and speaking with enthusiasm
  • Achieved goals even when dealing with difficult personalities
  • Dealt well with rejection; maintaining a positive attitude and immediately dialing next number

Coaching

  • Trained callers on techniques of persuasive selling
  • Used positive attitude and challenging goals to motivate colleagues to meet daily goals

Goal oriented

  • Achieved recognition in a competitive environment by persisting in pursuing sales goals
  • Work well independently and on a team
  • Manage time well

Positive personal qualities:  Identified as

  • Loyal: worked at this job for 3 years, with consistently improving results
  • Serious about work, prepared well for tasks
  • Confident, eager to do a good job
  • Friendly, courteous and personable
  • Trustworthy and reliable

Dealing with negative and self defeating emotions

William James: “The deepest craving of human nature is to be appreciated.”

 

Adapting to the difference between being a high school sports star to being a bench player in college requires a significant adjustment in attitude if you are to profit from your collegiate athletic and academic experience. Not getting into the game or the same positive attention as players the coaches have identified as top performers or missing the support of a parent or friend, can lead to stress, anxiety, and feelings of inadequacy, all of which can get in the way of your best performance on and off the field.

 

Fortunately, there are several simple ways of dealing with negative emotions.

 

  1. Adopt an “attitude of gratitude” by writing down at least one positive in your life each day, preferably as the first thing you do in the morning. Realize that what you have achieved as an athlete is a rare gift, rewarded by continued participation at the collegiate level. Also give thanks for the people who helped you develop your skills and also those who supported you in other ways. Use visualization to recreate mental images that extend and reinforce your positive feelings.   Commit to expressing gratitude in writing or orally at least once a day to someone in your circle to extend positive attitudes to another. Learn to be grateful for lessons learned, when you realized a positive outcome after learning a hard life’s lesson and appreciating your improved performance as a result.

 

View the following 2-minute video with inspirational text, music, and photographs on the importance of gratitude.

 

 

  1. Identify the conditions under which you feel stress. Feelings of stress are normal and often habitual, triggered by situations with similar characteristics. Make an effort to identify recurrent stress-producing situations, such as being yelled at by a coach or fellow player.   This will help prevent your emotions from escalating and allow you to choose a more rational reaction to your circumstances, one in line with your goals rather than expressing spontaneous emotions, which may lower others’ opinions of you as a committed team player. As an alternative, focus on the compliments you receive for effective plays and replay your best behavior in your mind as reinforcement.

 

Open the link below for a concise explanation of how flight or fight responses are both automatic and temporary.

 

http://www.athleteassessments.com/articles/the_amygdala_hijack_brain_snap.html

 

  1. Use the 6-second rule to help strong emotions fade and rational thinking return. See the video on the link below. It shows that strong emotions typically last 6 seconds or less. Try counting to 600 by 100s, while taking a breath and exhaling slowly. These actions allow you think about how to react in terms of your goals instead of your emotions.

 

http://www.mhhe.com/business/management/videos/POM_V2/Flashvideo/EmotionsinCheck.html

 

  1. Analyze your own and teammates’ behavior and do an honest and realistic self– Ask the following questions and rank yourself on a scale from best to worst in comparison to teammates.

 

  1. What do the top performers do to improve their competitive skills? What do the worst performers do?
  2. How do the players who have the best relationships with fellow players communicate with them? The worst?
  3. How do players who have the best relationships with coaches communicate with them? Behave in practice and in competitions? The worst?
  4. What can I learn from players with the best academic records?

 

  1. Commit to a self-improvement plan modeled on what you have observed about the players who get the most playing time and those who are most respected by coaches and fellow players. Just as the most dedicated players continue to fight for victory when losing a game, you need to continue to pursue your best interests even when discouraged. Find a fellow player to serve as an accountability and study partner who will let you know when you are fulfilling and failing to fulfill your improvement plans. This will encourage you to maintain a commitment to your plan.

 

  1. Talk to your coaches and counselors about your athletic and academic goals and plans. Your school recruited you because the coaches saw you as someone who could help their team succeed. Take advantage of their goodwill and experience by sharing your goals and asking what they believe you can do to achieve them. Agree to a plan of action and follow up by letting them know what you have been doing to implement the plan. They will appreciate and recognize your efforts.

 

Being selected to play on a collegiate team is a privilege that only a small percentage of high school athletes are given. When you are feeling down, take positive action. Keep a gratitude journal, define positive goals for your athletic and academic performance, and commit yourself to implementing plans to allow you to continuously improve on several fronts.   Appreciate small victories, taking positive credit for each step you take to achieve your competitive and academic goals.