Kara L. Lamb
Although we might not realize it, like it or not, we are all communicators. Did your neighbor ask you about your job and the latest product your company is producing? Did your mom wonder why your agency made that natural resource management decision? Did that man at church, or the checker at the grocery store ask what you do for work? When you answered those questions, you were a corporate communicator.
But how do you know you’ve said the right thing in response? Relax; it’s easier than you think. Just pretend you’re on the phone and use the same phone etiquette your mom taught you way back when.
- It’s okay to clarify
“May I ask who is calling?” and “How may I help you?” are polite and professional questions most of us ask already when we are answering a business phone. The same sort of thing applies in any conversation. As the person being asked questions about your work, you are in the control position. You get to clarify: What interests you about this project/product? How did you learn about us? What have you heard? Be polite and inquisitive so you can give the best answer for the situation.
- Always keep it simple
Better known as “Never complain; never explain.” In casual conversations, like being on the phone, most people do not have time for a long answer. Often, the longer answer leads to more questions and can actually confuse a matter. Be short and concise in your response. The simple answer reduces the likelihood of misinformation.
- Never speculate
Face it: you don’t have a crystal ball. You cannot predict the future. Media often use the speculative question because it often draws a dramatic answer that makes for a good quote. Similarly, casual conversation lends itself to more colorful descriptions, hyperbole, and the like. Be aware of that. Stick to only what you know. If pressed to answer about the unknown future, simply let the person you’re speaking with know that you have a public relations team who can help them, or a web address where they can get more information. It’s also okay to say the phrase, “I don’t know.” Be sure to use that one, especially when it’s true!
In the end, communication is really about common sense. By clarifying questions and the curiosity behind the question, keeping your answers short and to the point, and not speculating about what you do not know, you best represent your work, your office, and your field. Not everyone is an expert, but these simple tips from using your phone can help you be a successful communicator.