One thing about being in the same business over 30 years – it’s always amazing to learn of new ideas that work. The possibility for improvement seems limitless. But no matter how creative we are, we risk failure if we don’t observe common truths learned over time. Here’s a big one… and it’s #2 on my all-time favorite list of common truths of communication. It’s from our popular eBook, New Perspectives in Wellness & Benefit Communications:
“You can lead a horse to drink, but you can’t make him water.” Doug Blubaugh
There’s a Grand Canyon-sized gap between what organizations want to say and how they choose to say it. It’s common to neglect the importance of “voice” — the tone of your communication, as determined by your audience.
Businesses that want to sound “official” usually end up sounding egotistical or confusing. Their messages are filled with corporate-speak, jargon, and gobbledygook. The intent of their messages is lost in the delivery.
Clarity is the main ingredient of effective communication.
If your messages aren’t obvious, they can’t be understood.
In fact, they might not even be read or heard. This is especially true when a topic is viewed by employees as important but intricate (choosing a healthcare plan, understanding a health savings account, improving overall wellness, etc.).
As a workplace communicator, you have the task of reaching a large variety of workers, including people who struggle to read, and those who can read but either don’t take the time or simply tune out health information.
It’s an important challenge. In fact, the National Patient Safety Foundation says the biggest barriers to being healthy are not age, income, education level, race, or ethnicity: Studies indicate that the strongest predictor of a person’s health status is his or her ability to understand and use health information. That’s why Hope Health writes and designs many of its client’s communications in “Quick-Read” format.
“We can’t keep focusing on our information instead of our readers,” says Audrey Riffenburgh, founder and president of consultancy Plain Language Works, LLC.
Clear communication is about focusing on what your readers need to know and then delivering that by making sure messages are relevant and understandable.
Putting that communication in “plain language” doesn’t mean you’re “dumbing down” messages. It simply means you understand the importance of having employees receive them.
For more timeless truths, download our FREE eBook New Perspectives in Wellness & Benefit Communications.
Shawn is the President and Founder of Hope Health. For over 30 years, his work has focused on bringing clear, easy-to-read and watch health messages to the public via workplaces. He bills himself as the “Best C+ Student in the Wellness Biz” because, as he says, “I like to challenge the notion that there is no such thing as a stupid question.” Shawn is on a mission to tie workplaces into their surrounding communities to share resources and ideas in an effort to improve the health of all Americans.
You may reach Shawn at sconnors@HopeHealth.com or 800-334-4094.