Audience first

Tom Price, now the former U.S. secretary of Health and Human Service, spent nearly $52,000 of taxpayers’ money flying on private charter planes. And he got caught! His boss, President Donald Trump, said that he didn’t like “the optics” of Price’s actions, “cosmetically or otherwise.” As a result, Price resigned. I’m guessing that Trump thought that the “optics” of Price’s departure appearing as a resignation, rather than a termination, would reflect better on Trump’s administration.

This regrettable story is one that comes to mind when I coach clients about business communications. It so clearly underscores how important public perception really is. The way others perceive our actions has a great deal to do with whether or not we are considered trustworthy.

Interestingly, the true definition of “optics” is the scientific study of light and vision. But “optics” as a buzzword, as the MacMillan Dictionary points out, has come to define “the way a situation looks” to the public. While hopefully your choice to be ethical, whether in politics or business, is genuine, in the business world how others perceive you absolutely matters. What you communicate and how you communicate, i.e. your words will determine your success.

This has never been truer than in the 21st century where information travels practically at the speed of light (speaking of optics), thanks to the Internet and social media. Your ideas, your concepts, and the words you choose to present them will be scrutinized. It’s the reason I always suggest that the first step in creating business communications of any kind is to consider what your potential clients want. You have to think about how you can serve your clients’ needs first, not how they can help you to pay your bills! So, think about the following principles when creating a new business communication, whether it’s a presentation or a “cold call” email.

1.Know your prospect or your client

Before you can craft a business communication make sure you know the basics of the other person’s business. If necessary, spend a little time in research online. Gaining an understanding of someone you intend to do business with is an essential (and respectful) first step.

2. Focus on the “you” rather than the “me”

Put the client first, literally. For example, rather than beginning an email by saying, “I’m writing to…” start your email by asking “Are you interested in…”. Language is nuanced, and the second approach subtly indicates that you are interested in what the client is interested, first and foremost.

3. Offer value to your client

In many instances in the business world, one of the key values is how you can help someone else to achieve their goals. If you share information that’s relevant to a client you have a much better chance of landing your prospect’s business. At the very least, you have shown yourself to be someone whose contacts should be kept on file, rather than sent to the trash folder!

Of course, it goes without saying that your message needs to be well constructed and well executed. As I pointed out in an earlier post, It’s Not About You, you need to provide information your audience is interested in receiving. As well, you need to do it using an appropriate tone. If you pay attention to these tips you will avoid the pitfall of appearing to only be concerned with what you hope to gain. Indeed, had Mr. Price thought a little bit harder about what his audience (the American public) wanted, expected, and needed from him, chances are he’d still have a job.

Do you need help with your business optics? Contact me at The Language Lab and I’ll make sure you achieve your goal.

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