Wednesday, 24 October 2007

In Plain English...

A session on how to effectively communicate IT messages within an institution. In general IT communication suffers from:

Too technical - trying to show we know our stuff. Too many acronyms.
Too detailed – most background information is not essential
Too bossy - almost a parental tone. "You must do" or more often "you must not do"
Monodimensional – over reliance on email
Too apologetic – apologising for things that are not our fault

Solutions discussed included:
Centralise all communication through a single office. All messages are checked (and frequently rewritten). Slows things down but benefits outweigh this.
Keep it simple and concise. Less really is more. Use web links for more detailed information for those who need it.
Ask yourself – what do people really need to know? Miss out rest.
Use different mechanisms for different messages. One University has replaced its 3 monthly printed newsletter with a blog. Information is more timely and it's more interactive.
Get input from your stakeholder groups - ask non technical people to read messages before they go out. Talk to students about how they want to be communicated with.
Become better listeners – if people feel they’ve been heard they tend to be more receptive and more forgiving
Emphasis on relationship building and learning more about needs
Face to face time can’t be understated
Get yourself invited to staff student committees, departmental meetings etc.
Use podcasts and put them on your University IPTV channel guide
Use Plasma screens round campus for getting simple messages out

All common sense stuff, but it can make a real difference. The only problems the two presenters had come across in implementing the above approach, was technical staff objecting to their messages being changed, particularly when the technical details and background had been omitted. This is when user feedback can be useful.

Very interesting session, and a lot for our Customer Service and Communications team to think about!


John H said...

I agree with you, Chris, that there is a lot of very useful stuff here that we can indeed learn from.

I particularly like the ideas of going through a single channel for all communications and of giving feedback to the techies about how their communications are perceived by our customers.

pj said...

I suppose in plain (UK) English monodimensional would be one dimensional