When employees get in the way of messages

Most people don’t agonize about how communication works. We simply do it. If we leave agonizing to the academics, we can break communication into three parts. There’s the composition of what’s going to be communicated, the delivery of that message, and its reception by another party.

As a writer who helps companies and other organizations communicate more effectively with their audiences, my professional expertise focuses on the first part, creating messages.

But I’ve noticed that so many messages that folks like me craft so carefully become completely ineffective when they reach the delivery stage. Why should that matter to you? Poor delivery hurts your organization’s ability to connect with prospects, customers and other key audiences.

That realization arrived the other day while I was waiting for my flight to do the same. Between warnings that any unattended bags would be destroyed (to verify that the contents weren’t harmful), I tried to understand announcement after announcement. “Zowst errwines snauw born sly she tennyun Taffyness.” (I was bound for “Olin,” not “Taffyness.”)

A local discount store employee recently alerted me to a special on some product I was never quite able to identify, closing his PA message with, “Thabyu perchopping wibbis income ginsu.”

Even when the messages are understandable, they’re so often delivered with the same enthusiasm most people reserve for earwax removal. Think of the number of times you’ve called a company that obviously invested the equivalent of your salary in an automated phone system, but then had its most despondent employee record all of the messages. As you hear her plod through the options for urgent delivery, you press “0” repeatedly in the hope of intervening before she jumps.

I’m not making fun of people with poor diction or depression. Not at all. I’m trying to call attention to the all-too-common practice of having a well-crafted message delivered by someone who either couldn’t care less or simply can’t be understood. All the effort the writer puts into choosing the right words and all the agonizing decision-making involved in its approval simply vaporizes when an employee delivers it flatly or while chomping on three pieces of Bazooka.

If you expect employees to deliver these key messages (each of which provides a glimpse of your organization’s image) please, please train them. Would you send them out to sell without the right preparation? Would you let them operate heavy machinery without proper instruction? Then don’t let them perform that incredibly critical act of communicating with your audiences without helping them become more effective.

Encourage them to stop, take a breath, and think about what they’re going to say before they press the microphone button. While you’re at it, call your own phone system and listen to the first impression your company’s messages make.

Why does a writer care about all this? It’s simple. I put a great deal of effort into crafting those messages for my clients. I want to make sure that the messages are as effective as possible, so that my clients are getting their money’s worth.