Communication in the professional arena -- no matter the industry or working relationship -- is paramount to one’s success…and yet communication in today’s workplace is radically different than what it was even five years ago.
We “talk” via email, “chat” through texts and instant messages, and “meet” through video conferences. Our core communication models have been drastically remodeled. The way we communicate can be our strongest ally or our biggest hindrance, so it is important to be able to communicate well, regardless of the platform or context.
We asked a few industry professionals to share strategies they utilize to maximize their communications skills.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden was a journalist for nine years prior to opening Verde PR, a Colorado-based PR and consulting firm. “As a journalist, there’s nothing worse than typos, grammatical errors or a lack of AP Style command. But beyond my journalism career, this attention to detail is just as important,” she pointed out.
In the field of public relations, one’s credibility is affected not only by what one is pitching but also how one pitches it. “A staff editor at a consumer magazine once told me that if he saw an email with a typo, a spelling or grammatical error, he would immediately throw it out without reading it,” Carpenter-Ogden said. “Clean copy that is written well is something that becomes paramount in the quality of deliverables you’re providing on a day-to-day basis.”
Know your stuff
Beyond written correspondence, there are many times when we are presented with key face-to-face interactions. Confidence, clarity and charisma are especially important in these situations. While these attributes come naturally to some, they are essential for all.
Laura Miera, vice president of sourcing at Marmot, suggested that the most important part of presenting to anyone -- from a single person to a large group -- is research. “Know your audience and know your subject.”
When addressing a group, an organized, thoughtful and relevant presentation will be appreciated by all listeners. “I like to add notes to myself on my printed presentation,” said Miera, “I tend to talk faster as the presentation progresses, so cue words, such as ‘pause’ or ‘slow down’ and ‘halfway through,’ are extremely helpful reminders to keep my cadence and focus.”
Ears: Your most important tool
Communicative disconnect, in some regards, is inevitable. But there are certain proactive measures that can help sidestep pitfalls. Carpenter-Ogden advised, “Listen. Listen more than you ever thought capable. When you don’t take the time to listen, the small details can be lost. From there, negativity and resentment can snowball.”
Carpenter-Ogden speaks from experience, following the merger of her company with another PR firm. “We have just merged an agency comprising mostly women with an agency comprising mostly men, and we still keep two offices.”
The two agencies both operate in the outdoor arena and face their challenges head-on. “I’ve learned to communicate succinctly with my new colleagues,” she said. “And I encourage my new (male) business partner to listen and offer more sensitivity around interacting with the women from my group. Our mantra is to always ensure each employee has a voice, and that we’re all truly listening to our colleagues.”
Choose your medium
Truly effective communication differs depending on with whom you’re communicating. Does your boss prefer quick meetings over email? Does your client watch his Facebook wall more intently than your emails? Does your target buyer still rely on his landline to deal with the outside world? From texting co-workers to tweeting potential new business, you have to find the best way to connect with the targets of your communications. In today’s world, that means adapting to multiple platforms.
Take pains, though, to match the nature of your message with the appropriate communication tools. Just as you wouldn’t ask your boss for a raise via text message, it’s probably smarter to keep your social media messages casual in nature, as fitting the casual, often-public nature of the medium.
Presenting ideas to anyone, including co-workers or employers takes research and finesse. “You want to go into the presentation with a confidence that states ‘expert,’” said Carpenter-Ogden. “Your hard work, command of the subject matter and your well-thought-out suggestions will earn the respect and send the message of power, confidence and authority.”
She added, “Listening to the feedback and interactions around the subject matter as you’re presenting enables you to learn more about your audience and their needs, which enables you to add more value to the presentation as you go through it. This is a fun process that always provides professional development, each and every time it’s practiced and executed.”
Outdoor Industries Women’s Coalition is a membership community of professionals in the outdoor industries united to provide power, influence and opportunity for women in outdoor-related businesses and to generate champions to inspire other women. For more information, visit www.oiwc.org.
This monthly column, a partnership between OIWC and SNEWS®, aims to address the issues that concern women in the industry most -- anything that is controversial, topical or newsworthy relating to women and the outdoors. The goal is to help, educate, inspire and grow. We welcome your ideas, gripes, thoughts and comments. Bring it on. E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Devon Sibole is an account executive at OutsidePR, an outdoor-oriented public relations and sports marketing firm in San Francisco.