Monday, December 1, 2008

Communicating Hope

Some Textbook Message Delivery
Too often we find examples of communication blunders in the news, in our offices and in our relationships. With a surfeit of “what not to dos,” it’s refreshing to discuss an example worthy of some praise.

In the last week, President-elect Obama started to fill a gaping hole in American confidence with a series of press conferences about his economic program and the team that will assist him in its implementation. The carefully crafted events have inspired hope and assurance at home and around the world. Indeed, the announcements – held over a three-day period – had a role in sparking the biggest stock market rally in past 75 years. (At this writing, however, the market is down again by triple digits.)

The messenger, the moment and the mechanics converged to provide us with some valuable lessons. So, left or right, blue or red, we should take note of excellence in communications. Here’s what I observed in the last week:

Clarity. Where we are, where we need to be and how we will get there were explained clearly and concisely with minimal jargon. Stress and pain were acknowledged but the stated goals were characterized as within reach – not dreams, not aspirations.

Authenticity. The combination of unambiguous language and sober tone created a sense of trust and calm. Although there was a “down to business” quality to the proceedings, a few quips were allowed. It served to keep it “human” and reinforced the genuine nature of the communication.

Timeliness. Critical times call for urgent action. The incoming team has moved swiftly – with “deliberate haste” – and has started to address the concerns of the public, of business and of the markets.

Momentum. Parceling out the news over a three day period created a sense of anticipation for the next installment. And, with these bites of information – one building on the next – each got its time in the sun. We were able to take the time to digest the news and understand how the pieces fit into the big picture.

Interaction. There was more to the events than the reading of a prepared statement. Questions were taken, though more orchestrated and limited than I liked. There was an interest in clarifying an issue and a willingness to defend a position.

Clearly, we’re witnessing a work in progress. It’s too early to render any final judgments. But what we saw was vision plus pragmatism. It can’t be one or the other to be successful. Vision alone is just a good intention. Pragmatism alone carries no passion around which to rally. With both, we can begin to envision a future that is achievable.

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