Multiple layers of meaning

Multiple layers of meaning

From a humble, one-paragraph memo to a glossy, 30-page annual report, most business communications try to do several jobs at once: to inform, explain, persuade, motivate, sell.

The most effective communications operate on several levels. Let’s say you’re writing a memo or email to inform your staff about an upcoming training session. On the face of it, it might seem that all you’re trying to do is inform. Maybe all you need to say is this:

“Tuesday at 9 am, there will be a mandatory training session for everyone in the Shipping and Receiving Department.”

Yes, that informs. It gives the basic information. But you want them to understand how important the training session is. You’d like them to want to attend. You want them to buy-in to your invitation.

Your message will be better received — and you’ll be more effective — if you include several layers of meaning. Take a look at these additional paragraphs and see if they supplement and enhance your message.

“The training will explain the latest OSHA regulations and show specifically how they affect operations here at Widget, Inc.” (Explain)

“To make the experience more fun, the second half of the training will be in the form of a Jeopardy-style TV game show, complete with podiums, buzzers and prizes. Steve Kelley will act as our own in-house Alex Trebec. Refreshments will be served.” (Persuade)

“The session will be fun, but our goal is serious. Each of you is important to the smooth functioning of this department. We value your health and welfare as much as we value your contribution to the company. So the goal of this training session is to ensure that everyone understands and complies with these important new safety guidelines. It’s more than our legal responsibility. It’s part of our commitment to you.” (Motivate)

These same principles hold true for memos, business proposals, advertisements — even asking that hottie or hunk down the hall for a date. When communicating, consider who you’re talking to and what would motivate them to say yes. Then expand what you say to hit those hot buttons. Doing that moves them much closer to yes, to that essential “buy-in.”

By giving your audience several layers of reasons, you become a more effective communicator (salesperson, manager, etc.)

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