On words and deeds

I was struck this week during two very different media training courses by the connection between communication and actions. Firstly I was in the north of England, working with a social care organisation on a story around historic abuse. As the organisation’s chief executive spoke about her desire to make amends and to help the victims I became aware that I believed in her sincerity. I asked myself why.

I realised that her words were not just slogans, designed to protect reputation, but came from a real need to do whatever possible to ease the pain of people they should have been helping. As someone who had worked in social care for many years, her empathy with those affected was helping her to find the right words and get them across in the right way.

Clearly that’s a marginal case and we can’t all have decades of experience in the caring professions. But I think there’s a lesson for us all there. Talk about what you know. Then, when you talk about the people you met yesterday, either colleagues, customers or another group altogether, it will be real to you. And you can make it real for the audience. If you feel proud of doing a good job and helping someone, we will see that pride in your face and hear it in your voice. Similarly, if you’re exciting by a new project because you’ve been out and about to see the results for yourself, we can share in that emotion. Make it real for us.

The second training course was in London and was Crisis-focussed. A delegate asked me what communications techniques can be used when a family is criticising you for a poor response. I told that delegate that it shouldn’t be about just communications but also action. Meet the family. Find out what their concerns are. They may still criticise you, which they’re free to do. They may say the meeting wasn’t as useful as they hoped, but you will have met them. Not so you can say “I’ve met them”, but so that you have a greater understanding of each other’s perspective.

Often we think that there’s a magic technique which will get us out of trouble with one bound. In reality, it’s more about what we do as part of our business. Good actions lead to good communications, so I’d like to thank those two delegates, both north and south, for giving me an insight into that.