Communicate for understanding

October 31, 2012

In the last while (say the last decade), there have been some fundamental changes in the way that we communicate; changes that help us get our point across in a way that others can understand it, like never before.

One of these is the ability to link to further information. Now, if we’re worried that we’re touching on anything too complex, we just insert a link to more data or an explanation. This builds context for our writing and aids in a reader’s comprehension, creating a ‘bigger picture’ view of your commentary.

The other difference is that we can just keep writing. Unlike traditional (printed) methods, the internet allows us to put more words and more words. The screen, unlike a finite page, seemingly never runs out of space. In other words, length (done well and with the right sort of structure) is no longer an issue.

But what does this now mean for readers, or media consumers? The onus is on them to look up words or references that they don’t recognise or understand. With virtually endless search engine potential at our fingertips, there’s no longer any excuse for not understanding or being up with social currencies.

A case in point was an experience I had recently on Facebook. I wake up one morning, boot up my computer and check out what’s happening on my social networks first, over my bowl of porridge… Hang on! What’s all this about the GC? What on earth is the GC? As my mind goes reeling through the possibilities for such an acronym (Global Crisis, Gold Coins… etc….) I try to fit these into the countless status posts I’m seeing, but it still doesn’t stack up.

So, I figure I’ll have to google… If “everyone” is talking about it, I should at least know what “IT” is. Sure enough, the answer is clear within seconds: it’s a new reality TV show that aired for the first time the night before. In my total lack of television time, I had well and truly ‘missed the memo’ – but I was no longer completely clueless.

So, what does this mean for us as communicators? It means we no longer communicate in a silo; we can (and should) consider other channels for information – linking, merging and integrating to build a complete picture.

No-one is going to read everything, or the whole of everything, probably ever again –they’re going to hunt around as they consume your messages, seeing what other people are saying and how the information is backed up.

Post videos, carry on the conversation via your social networks and write content as long as it needs to be, with a good catalogue of hyperlinks, to give your audience exactly what they need. They’re going to look at it that way anyway… If you make it easier for them, you’re guiding the experience.

Inspired by this post by Seth Godin. (ie: this is where you go to create the context for greater understanding…)