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Barriers to Communication

Posted in: Non-Profit Communications, Uncategorized on July 27th, 2012

Sometimes I hear from clients that they have done everything they possibly could to communicate with their audience. They throw their arms up in despair and decide that people just aren’t interested.

Before you give up, lets do a quick assessment of how you are currently trying to communicate by seeing if you are unintentionally putting up barrier

Is your print communication confusing and unclear?
Only give your audience the information that is appropriate. If you provide two pages of history and facts when all you really want them to do is visit your website, chances are people won’t read it all.

Is important information difficult to find?
This might seem obvious, but many times people provide the most important information – the who, what, where and why – buried amongst other information and the reader has to work hard to find it.

Is there only one point of contact?
Don’t just provide a phone number or an email as a means of contact. Provide any way people can get a hold of you or take the desired action. For example, if you want people to register for an event, provide them with a phone number and a website so they can use the method most convenient for them to register. It also helps if your website or phone line goes down.

Are there physical barriers?
Lets say you want people to attend an event and give their feedback on a project. But you only give them one time and place to do so. And you give them a weeks notice. Although you can say you provided an opportunity for feedback, you have made it difficult for some to engage.

Another example is holding the same feedback session in an out of the way location, that isn’t accessible to your audience.

Here is a link to an article that outlines a similar type of situation – Reduction of County Open Houses: Move to Efficiency or Barrier to Community Engagement?

Do you speak another language?
I see this time and time again. People think they are communicating effectively because they are using a language that they think everyone understands. Sometimes it is engineerese, sometimes computerese, but in all cases, it is only causes confusion on the side of the audience. Keep it simple and use plain language. Avoid acronyms, slang or any terminology that might not be known to your audience.

Are the systems in place unwielding or cumbersome?
Is your event registration form three pages long? Can people only register by showing up in person? In order to provide feedback, do people have to sign up two weeks in advance and consult with six departments? If people decide to engage, provide feedback, register for an event or take any other type of action, do not unwittingly put roadblocks in their way or they won’t continue.

These are just some things to consider. Of course, you have to also make sure you are using the right tool for the right audience and at the right time.
But that is another blog post :)