August 22, 2006
Liz published this at 11:59 am
Big Ideas about Communication
I’ve been working on big ideas — how blogging and online communication relates to how enterprises and entrepreneurs communicate in the 3-D world. How might thinking about one help us to be better at the other? What I know from my experience and research is this.
Humans aren’t great communicators, even folks who work in communication don’t practice what we preach.
In the act of communication, listening and reading are often undervalued, speaking and writing are often underperformed.
Execution of any process or plan, and success of any business, is entirely dependent upon clear, quick, and complete communication.
Many folks hold other people accountable for making sure communication happens.
Few people actually think about the differences in forms of communication or which is the best in a given situation.
I’ve also figured out one more thing.
If you have a blog, there’s a good chance that you may have brought blogging habits back with you into the business world. That’s not a good idea. Really.
Blogging is bad business writing. Come look.
The Elephant on the Net
If you read the business blogs, like I do, you’ll learn a lot about how to write online. I’ve learned plenty since I started blogging — enough to tell when a web page writer is still writing for print.
Lately, however, I’ve been paying attention to how I change my writing when I write for business and how I change back when I blog.
Business writing and business blogging are almost completely opposite. Business communication is even more. Yet no one seems to mention much about it — that’s the Elephant on the Net. Take a look at this pachyderm from the point of what I’ll call
The Traits of Business Communication.
1. Most business communication is prepared for a small audience that is familiar to the writer. Most blogging is for a larger audience, many of whom the writer never meets.
2. The ideas of business communcations are tailored to the goals of the enterprise. As in blogging they need to be strong, effective, and memorable, but the context is usually focused within the brick and mortar of the organization in question. In business blogging ideas are purposefully more global in order to establish the blogger as a thought leader in an industry.
3. The organization of business ideas can be formal or informal, and it changes depending on the context and the people with whom the ideas will be shared. Often ideas are presented in a fashion that meets the culture of the enterprise, the needs of a department, or the values of the person in charge. Ideas presented in blogging usually are presented within the context of the blog.
4. The voice and word choice in business communication changes frequently depending on the audience, the subject, and the context. It can be formal, informal, or anywhere between. A blogger’s voice is usually consistent and relatively conversational.
5. The conventions of business communication are drawn from tradition, the style and culture of the enterprise, and the type of communication that is being used. The conventions of blogging are drawn from the tradition of early programming, the style and culture of online communities, and the type of blog that is offered.
6. The presentation of business communications is based on the readability of print on paper, PowerPoint, and voice in a room. The presentation of blogging is based on print on screen, streaming video, linkage, and VoiP.
This is a cursory comparison. However, this elephant can make more than a cursory difference, if we don’t notice him in the room.
Whether we work inside a brick and mortar building, or simply want to reach someone who does, blogging our message or proposal could have a disastrous effect. Even business readers who read blogs have different expectations of business documents. In a business setting, we need to communicate specific needs-based and targeted ideas in a businesslike manner to be heard.
We know how to write for readers, and so we talk business when we mean business and blog when we want to blog.
It’s a powerful difference — powerful enough that people listen.
The elephant has left this part of the Internet.
–ME “Liz” Strauss
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