In this episode, we discuss something that is very important but unfortunately, is often overlooked: effective communication across digital platforms.
We live in a technologically advanced era that has transformed the way that we communicate. The bulk of our in-person conversations have been replaced with video calls, texts, and emails – especially in the middle of our current pandemic situation as many employees have gone remote. A true leader understands that connecting with your audience through strong communication, both in-person and digitally, is the key to gaining respect. Being able to properly express yourself with those around you is an art, and it will undoubtedly take some years to master.
If you’re trying to become a better digital communicator, you must first strive to become a better in-person communicator. A recent study found that 69% of managers are uncomfortable communicating with their employees. Even though much of our daily interactions are currently taking place digitally, you must still have strong in-person communication skills. Can you imagine being a strong communicator online but then coming across completely different in person? That’s probably not going to be the best thing for your reputation. Before we dive into the factors that make a strong digital communicator, we’ll explore some helpful ways to properly and efficiently express yourself overall.
The 5 C’s of Communication
According to Forbes, there are 5 C’s to effective communication:
1. Be clear––Before communicating, identify the key points you want to get across and what you are hoping to gain from the interaction. If there is an issue you need to address, figure out which personal value you felt was disrespected and clearly communicate how it made you feel. It may not be easy, but without initiating tough conversations, change will not occur.
2. Be concise––Keep your requests direct, simple, and straight to the point. People have a short attention span, so it’s best to avoid going off-topic. The less wordy, the better. Don’t get too caught up in the story — focus on getting your point across in the most effective way possible.
3. Offer a compelling solution––After communicating your point, provide a solution that you’d be happy with. If your original solution is not accepted by the other parties involved, strive to negotiate and consider settling on a compromise.
4. Be curious––Don’t just focus on the message you want to convey. Be curious about what other people have to say and genuinely listen to their responses. This is the only way you will be able to understand their concerns. Furthermore, it will give you a leg-up throughout the conversation and might even change your point of view.
5. Be compassionate––Mutual respect starts with kindness, so try and put your own biases aside when communicating. Making people feel appreciated often makes them feel safe around you, and this is a great way to get people to open up and maybe even listen to you.
The 5 C’s enhance your own personal communication skills. However, a proactive business leader knows that collaborative progress towards better communication can only be achieved IF it’s something that is prioritized by the rest of your team. Effective communication needs to start with you and then must trickle down to your team.
As a CEO, I know that I can’t always know what’s going on with my employees, especially if they don’t feel comfortable enough to communicate with me. Even though I may not always know how all of my employees are feeling, I can facilitate an environment where they feel comfortable enough to express themselves openly and honestly. That is why here at Vonazon we have implemented an environment that encourages open dialogue and welcomes uncomfortable conversations. Here are just some of the ways that we have created a safe space for conversations to take place within our office:
- We have a 24/7 open-door policy to promote a transparent work environment; our employees know that HR and I are always available for a quick chat.
- We have weekly Friday meetings with our entire team where all of us come together on our big brown couch and have a collaborative conversation about everyone’s week and I try to get my employees to open up about how they’re feeling so we can all help in supporting each other’s point of views.
- We also have a suggestion box that allows our employees to submit anonymous requests whenever they have feedback on how to improve our office environment.
At the end of the day, it’s the little things that encourage open dialogue and make our team feel heard. Promoting healthy in-person communication is a great way to maneuver your way over to effective digital communication. However, in-person communication and digital communication are far from the same thing.
Tips for Effective Digital Communication
What is digital communication? In business, it involves an organization’s online communication efforts with their clients, prospects, employees, and stakeholders. Personally, it does the same thing but is more directly related to your personal reputation. It spans websites, chats, forums, online blogs, emails, social media, and more. As of January 2021, Statista reported that the number of active Internet users was 4.66 billion, so successful companies today need to be well versed in digital communication because the majority of people they’re trying to target are already online! For this reason, digital communication is often far more strategic than in-person communication, which can be somewhat random.
Before we go any further, let’s discuss three simple skills required to be a successful digital communicator:
1) Adaptability: In the digital realm, conversations can shift quickly. People can interpret your message in hundreds of different ways, and this often leads to confusion and even conflict. You have to be able to adapt to a potential crisis at any given moment. More often than not, you also must quickly shift your way of thinking.
2) Empathy: It’s easy to forget that we are talking to other people when we are sitting behind a digital screen. Reminding yourself that your messages are being received by actual human beings will help you establish a more meaningful connection. No one wants to feel like they’re being spoken down to. They want to feel understood.
3) A Commitment to Learning: Digital technology is evolving more and more each and every year; the platforms we utilize to communicate today will likely change as time progresses. Having an open attitude to sudden change and learning curves will allow you to adopt new digital channels with ease.
Just like in-person conversations, you need to remember your manners when speaking to people online. Digital screens and casual online lingo can sometimes make it hard for us to remember that our bosses, managers, clients, coworkers, and employees are on the other end. I’m sure many of us have heard the term “proper etiquette” before, but have you heard of “proper net-iquette?” Yes, it’s a real thing.
Improving Your Netiquette
Netiquette refers to the way you behave online and on social media both personally and professionally. Since the majority of online communication is completely non-verbal, you’re unable to use facial expressions or adjust your tone of voice to back what you’re typing. This makes digital communication somewhat of a grey area because people are left to interpret your message however they like. To avoid confusion or unintentionally insulting someone, here are tips to remember the next time you communicate through a screen:
Be cautious with sarcasm
Even if you have a sarcastic personality, be very cautious using it online because people can’t always determine your tone, sarcasm can get lost in translation.
Use correct grammar
Even though Internet language is simplified and sometimes lax, this doesn’t mean you should start speaking with business professionals like they’re your their close friend. Typos and improper grammar reflect poorly on your professional image. So, avoid using casual abbreviations like lol, or brb, and maybe consider downloading a browser extension like Grammarly that proofreads your messages for you.
Consider your email address
Statista reported that during the height of the pandemic, 76% of U.S. adults used email to communicate with one another. Since many people use email as their main source of communication, be sure that your address and subject line reflects a level of professionalism. The email address you use should be free of nicknames, slang, or strange spellings, especially in business. It’s always a good rule of thumb to use separate email addresses for personal and professional use.
Don’t type in all caps
In online communication, all caps are usually translated as yelling. This is not a good way to emphasize what you are trying to say. If you need to emphasize something, use italics or bold typeface instead.
Don’t forget to reply
If someone sends you an email or an online message, shoot them a quick reply. It’s okay if you can’t help them out right away, we all get busy! But at least acknowledge that you’ve received their message. This way the sender will have peace of mind and won’t feel the need to send follow-ups. This is a pet peeve of mine. If someone sends you an email, just respond as quickly as you can. How would you feel if you ask me a question and it took days or even weeks to respond? You’d think I didn’t care. However, if I responded immediately, even if I didn’t have the answer, at least, you’d know that I respect you and your question.
Respect the privacy and rights of others
Only share someone’s story, picture, or message if they have given you permission. People’s words are their property, so you shouldn’t forward a personal email or conversation to unintended parties.
Here at Vonazon, we recently helped a financial consulting group edit some of their online resources because they weren’t granted permission to use a specific company’s name within the copy. So, my team had the tedious job of editing their online content and making sure that it was free of other company mentions. After the fact, they were able to display these resources again on their website. It just goes to show how sensitive some people or companies can be about their online mentions and how careful you must be when writing and communicating online.
I want to leave you with one last recommendation – don’t be afraid to have fun! Digital communication is a tool of expression! Even though you should try to remain proper when speaking with business professionals, don’t be afraid to be yourself. Assess the interaction and go from there. Some companies are laxer than others, so your online messages don’t always have to be cut and dry. Fun fact, according to Adobe’s 2021 Emoji Trend Report, 76% of people agreed that emoji are an important communication tool for creating unity, respect, and understanding. So, don’t be afraid to send a smiley face once in a while or a funny gif to brighten someone’s day––as long as you remain respectful and courteous, and apply the golden rule of treating others how you want to be treated, then you too can master the art of becoming an effective digital communicator.di