Three Ways to Get to Simple Communications

Three Ways to Get to Simple Communications

Red Autumn LeafGetting to simple is one of the hardest things communications professionals ever do. Gathering input and getting approvals can be a battle every step of the way. But each time you keep clutter out of a message, you’re a step closer to success.

Whether planning, writing or executing, communicators always need to be looking for ways to simplify. The people whose ideas stand out will be those who tell the clearest, most compelling and candid story. It doesn’t matter what you’re selling or the situation you find yourself in, the simple message will be the one that people hear.

The founder of the global PR agency, Hill and Knowlton, John W. Hill, wrote, “…the chance of persuading public opinion when a cause is right, increases in direct ration to your success in explaining your facts in terms your audience can grasp.”

I would say that’s even more important in today’s world of information overload. So, here are three of the best ways I’ve found over the years to keep it simple.

1.     Keep It Short

If a campaign’s core arguments and supporting statements can’t be understood with a single page executive summary, it hasn’t been boiled down enough. Attach all the facts, figures and supplements you want, but that one page needs to be able to stand on its own to convince someone to support your product, cause or point of view.

When planning, keep campaigns simple to make them easier to execute and avoid costly mistakes. Don’t add unnecessary steps just to increase the budget. It isn’t worth it. You’ll only add confusion and increase the odds of failure. Successful careers are made on flawless execution and great results.

2.     Use Plain Language

A message should be crafted so that someone who hasn’t graduated high school can understand the main points. This is true even if you’re selling to a small group of highly educated people. Add jargon if you absolutely must, but first, write it so that you can sell it to a roomful of kids. Besides being easier to digest, simple language is much less likely to be misquoted—by the press or when people tell others what they think they heard you say.

3.     Always Ask Why

More often then not, my job when I walk into a situation is getting rid of things. I’m always asking one simple question – why? Why are we doing this? Why do the people who matter care about it? Why are we talking to this group, can they really help or do they really care? Why do we care about that? Why this? Why that? Why, indeed. More than one client has told me how annoying that one question is—until they start to see the result and understand it is all about cutting through the clutter to get at what really matters.

Roll Up Your Sleeves

Getting to simple isn’t easy, but it is the most important part of any work you do. The simpler you make something, the more successful you will be.

What have I missed? How do you simplify your work?

  • Hi Rick,

    I love #3 about asking ‘Why?’. At one of my first jobs out of college, I asked it so many times they gave me a T-shirt with ‘Why?’ on the front and ‘Why Not?’ on the back. So, I really do own the T-shirt on that one. Ha! 🙂

    That said, I think I can always do better on keeping it simple – fewer words and more concise. As you said, this is really harder than the reverse.

    Good post!


    September 26, 2011 at 4:28 pm
    • Thanks, Jenifer.

      Love the t-shirt!

      I find that you have to ask ‘Why?’ about three times in a row to get to the real reason for many complicated issues or convoluted objectives. The first time they just blurt out a programmed answer. The second time they actually start to think about it. By the third time they are so interested in convincing you that they actually think about making it simple and easy to understand.

      It is like apologizing for sending a long letter because you didn’t have time to write a short one. (Yes, I’ll have to go look up who said that one because it is NOT original.)

      September 26, 2011 at 4:41 pm
  • True. Big difference between an action request and a blog post. I used to be very detailed all the time to prevent misunderstandings. But I failed to see that this was MY process – most people understand better with less info, not more.

    September 27, 2011 at 4:39 am
    • Tinu,

      It isn’t easy finding that level between not enough and too much information. Most people dont’t want to risk not enough so they give too much but the key points get lost in the details. I think you hit the right balance. At least I understand it…

      Thanks for stopping by!

      September 27, 2011 at 6:27 am