The long or short of it

I am not a big rules guy when it comes to successful communications.  You know those people who will present you with the magic formula.  Every message needs to be delivered in less than three sentences.  Or the opposite – staged delivery where you trickle feed the audience over a much longer period of time.

Who is right here?  The truth is…it depends.  There are occasions when people need, even demand, detail.  When a company needs to take a new direction, for example, that is going to result in significant disruption to people’s jobs, a three paragraph email is simply not good enough.  You need to tell me why you are doing this and how the final decision was made.  What’s likely to happen next and how will that affect me?

On the other hand, there is a risk in going too far the other way.  Sometimes I need you to get to the point quickly.  For example, if you are announcing a highly anticipated result.  This is where the selection of the communication medium can also be important.  For example, the 15 minute video that sets the stage might be great for delivering detail in an engaging way, but when it comes to specific results, it can frustrate the audience who will, if they can, fast forward through your critical scene-setting.  On the other hand, a short, snappy email can ensure the key information and critical context are delivered much more effectively.

I am a great believer in what I call “glance communications” and newspapers are the best example.  We all know the way most people read print media is to scan for the bits that interest them – and so headlines and sub-headings are crucial.

As with just about everything in communications, it comes down to getting inside the heads of your intended audience.  What is likely to be their mind set and mood when they come to view, read or listen to your message?  It’s not about what you want to say – it’s about what they are prepared to hear. Long or short?  It’s their choice.