“The effectiveness of communication is not defined by the communication, but by the response.”
Milton Erickson, US Psychologist
When composing written communications to clients, whether a simple email or presenting a pitch, we can find the recipient’s response may differ from our expectations. Are they giving you the information you need?
We all need to think about how we communicate with clients from time to time. Communication happens on many different levels. Our work hours are often short and always precious, so how can we give the best of ourselves to get the most from our clients – upfront, and as efficiently as possible? The onus is on us to help ourselves and, in turn, to help our clients improve the ways we deliver work.
How can we give the best of ourselves to get the most from our clients – upfront, and as efficiently as possible?
So how can we streamline our work?
Streamlining is the process used to simplify or eliminate unnecessary work-related tasks to improve the efficiency of processes. Streamlining requires modernising techniques, and it feeds into your communication processes with colleagues and clients.
Tips for streamlining workflows to improve efficiency
Streamlining processes and workflows may take some time and is best completed in small steps that contribute to your own efficiency goals. You can do this by reviewing the details of your challenges – then deciding which areas to streamline first. Here are some steps you might try:
- Assess any existing workflows
When assessing your current processes and workflows, get an overall idea of the exact way things are done before reviewing the areas that could be improved by streamlining. For instance, it may be helpful to list your processes in the most simplistic terms. Write down the benefits of each process as you see fit and list each person involved.
Many processes are interrelated and may not be as important.
Write down the processes from most to least important. This will help you to decide which to streamline first, second, third, and so on.
- Analyse outcomes – analyse your work
For perspective, look at outcomes or results of each workflow. You’ll soon spot which are tedious, unnecessary, and not time friendly. Analysing your work takes different forms. Examples include proofreading (your own work and the work of others), brainstorming or workshopping ideas, providing feedback, and reporting. At Three Whiskey, the review process is known as ‘QA’ - or quality assurance.
The Creative Team checks each other’s work daily. We share documents – whether a brief, pitch, or email copy, and ask someone within our team to QA the piece before sharing it with a wider audience. This builds on the collaborative process and focuses on improving the value of the work.
This is the place to start. Writers, write! But before we write, we plan. Consider your approach to communication. Collect your thoughts. This helps with the method of preparing content - particularly for us as an agency, as we are across a range of diverse clients. A simple planning outline looks like this:
- Questions – what do you need to know? What do you want?
- Brief – write a short brief using your questions. Briefing works - even for a structured email. You can make a brief as simple as you like. But more on this later…
- Document - build your document or communication
- Review - review and resolve your thinking (and your copy)
What’s the question?
An efficient way to establish exactly what it is you want to say and to get to the heart of your communication is to think about what you need from the client
An efficient way to establish exactly what it is you want to say and to get to the heart of your communication is to think about what you need from the client. Once you have your questions, you can put these into a brief format.
Why a brief?
Frequently misunderstood, briefs are an essential part of how we work with one another. They will help you to shape your communication, but they are also a good referencing tool. By using a brief, you can be sure you won’t miss out on any key details. A solid brief can be adapted to work for any type of project, from business winning presentations to blog copy and detailed articles.
Let’s look at what goes into a good brief that will communicate exactly what you want it to.
- A brief doesn’t need to be complicated – simple is always best
- What do you want to do? What are the key objectives? What do you want to say?
- What do you want to cover?
- Describe the nature and tone of the work
- How do you want the client to respond? (What do you need?)
- What’s the background – who is the audience? Who will see this piece of content?
- What are the next steps? Points and recommendations
- Deadline – When do you need the information from the client? / Or background research required for an article
- Add the brief to a shared folder where the team can access it
- Get approval and agreement from everyone on the project
If after writing your brief, you still don’t have all the information you need, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. In Creative, we frequently ask our Account Managers and Ops people to push back – so long as it’s coming from the right place, clients are usually forthcoming. We share the valuable information between ourselves (hello again, Mr. Brief) and we are proactive where information is missing or more detail is required. Always set yourself up with the best chance to succeed.
When writing your communication, there are points worth thinking about. Good practice becomes habitual, and this is what you are looking for – to repeat the standard for quality copy each time you draft a client communication. Use your brief to write the copy.
- Clarity – be clear, be concise. Think about the meaning and say only what you mean to
- Think about your audience – what should the reader know by the time they finish reading your communication? Offer background information or data to support your copy
- Accuracy – are you consistent with your messaging? If moving from brief to an abstract, maintain consistency with your messaging
- Be proactive – are there any problems or questions you foresee the client might have in response to your communication?
- For emails - assign one message per email. If you need to communicate more detail, try to limit a single project per email. Typically, you’ll want to track communications, so make it easy for everyone included in the email to do so
- Longer emails – maintain a structure by creating an outline. Noting what you want to say in bulleted points first can help you to hit the mark
It might sound obvious, but reviewing your work is crucial to content development – no matter the nature of the communication. Copywriters and writers access their proofreading and editing skills as much as their writing skills. Thorough checking of copy is essential to improving your communications, so let it become a habit.
It might sound obvious, but reviewing your work is crucial to content development – no matter the nature of the communication
- Review your copy – does it say precisely what you want it to, in the most straightforward way?
- Is it easy to understand? Put yourself in the position of the client – would you know what is being asked of you?
- Proofread for mistakes, spelling, and grammar – check for errors one at a time
- Then proof again
- And again (the rule of three)
- Refine – streamline any points that require clarity. Or delete anything that doesn’t add value
- Have a team member review and QA your work (what’s known as Quality Assurance) – two heads are better than one
- Utilise proofreading tools – there are plenty available online to choose from and they can help iron out any common errors. We all make them when we’re tired, under pressure, or are too close to a piece of copy
Following and implementing these processes around your work will help you to create structure and will put clear communication into the heart of everything you do.
Photo by Volodymyr Hryshchenko on Unsplash