Four Communication Strategies and When to Use Them

By Michelle Wright

As an entrepreneur, you are the voice of your business. And chances are, you spend a lot of time communicating – whether you’re pitching to investors, promoting your brand, or convincing a talented colleague to join your team. Regardless, communication skills are vital, and it never hurts to learn new ways to engage your audience.

As a corporate communicator with a degree in journalism, I’m here to share four strategies that can help improve your communications, both written and verbal. Communication permeates nearly everything businesses do, from pitch presentations to employee handbooks, and although it might not be part of your job title, it is certainly a critical skill to have when representing your company. For example, think of what would happen if you wrote a press release and titled it, “Company Press Release.” It does not seem like a big deal at first, but when you think about how many press releases a journalist receives and ignores each day, you realize that your lack of communication strategy – no matter how small – resulted in a missed opportunity for press coverage.  

The following list of communication strategies is by no means exhaustive, but rather a starting point to help you think about how you can tailor your messages to the interests and motives of each audience you communicate with.

Communication Strategies

  • Inverted Triangle

What it is: A journalistic technique for organizing information, prioritizing the most important information in the first sentence (known as the ‘lead’). This includes explaining who, what, when, where, why, and how, thereby helping the reader understand the message quickly and easily.

When to use it: Written communications where you need to convey important information to an audience who has limited time/attention (i.e., news articles, press releases, general employee announcements, etc.).

Example: “During the company’s first quarter earnings release on March 18, CEO Jill F. announced that the company would dedicate $1 million to employee training this year to support the firm’s commitment to continuing education.”

  • Mental Shortcut

What it is: A method of comparing an uncommon idea to a popular, commonly understood reference that often implicitly has positive connotations. This strategy uses two psychological concepts – availability heuristic and halo effect – to encourage your audience to accept and understand the message you are conveying.

When to use it: When explaining or pitching your business to someone for the first time, whether it’s investors, peers or colleagues.

Example: “It’s like Uber for laundry service.”

  • Storytelling

What it is: Using a narrative about a relatable topic or situation to build an emotional connection with your audience, often in an attempt to persuade them or inspire them to act. Telling a story that the audience can easily relate to can strengthen the effectiveness of storytelling even more.

When to use it: Almost always, as long as you have the time. Opportunities for storytelling include:

  1. During an opening or closing statement as part of a presentation or pitch meeting.
  2. In your marketing plan, as a way to build brand loyalty and inspire action.
  3. To complement quantitative analysis and help the audience understand the meaning of the data.

Examples: Most TV advertisements and TED Talks. Watch the intro of this TED Talk to hear an example of how a speaker uses dramatic storytelling to gain her audience’s full attention.

  • The Word ‘Because’

What it is: A persuasion technique. A psychology experiment in the 1970s discovered that people are more likely to comply with your request if you use the word ‘because’ to explain the request. The reason does not have to be significant, but it does have to be realistic.

When to use it: When asking for something or persuading others. The technique could be useful when crafting sales messages or change management initiatives.

Examples: The initial experiment created a scenario where people had to ask others to cut in line. Below are examples of two statements that worked, and one that didn’t. You can read more about the study here and here.

  1. “May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush?”
  2. “May I use the Xerox machine because I want to make copies?”
  3. “May I use the Xerox machine because an elephant is after me?”

It is worth noting that these communication strategies are not mutually exclusive. They are intended to be used together – when appropriate for the audience – to help deliver a strong, impactful message.

Header Image Courtesy of: Wikimedia Commons

Michelle Wright is a Citi Employee with over 5 years experience in corporate communications and a volunteer with NFTE (Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship). She is a regular contributor to the Ye! blog. 

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