Sunday, June 07, 2009

Achieving success through improving communications

It’s never been easier to communicate; phone, email, text, instant messaging and traditional post. Information flows freely back and forth in blogs, magazines, tweets, forums, websites, podcasts and videos – the channels are many and varied.

However when I look at what is communicated I wonder about the real value of much of this information. When someone announces on twitter that they had a cheese sandwich and cup of coffee for lunch, I have to ask, “Who on earth cares?” I certainly don’t. By the way I plucked this example from thin air, so if you tweeted about your lunch please don’t take it personally.

Then there’s the endless regurgitating and recycling of information. I just did a quick search on Google for the ‘golden mean in photography’ and got 1,280,000 hits. Anyone who thinks they can add anything of value by writing about this topic again needs their head examined – total waste of time. But I bet right now there are people researching the golden mean by reading some of those articles and then paraphrasing them and rewriting the same stuff which has probably been written 20 times better in the past.

I know I’ve done this too but from now on I resolve to try to tackle things from a fresh and original perspective. I want to contribute something of value – not just add to the noise.

The other thing that bothers me is the quality of writing we are subjected to these days. The internet enables anyone to publish their words without the benefit of the slightest editorial control. Correct grammar and punctuation have become alien arts. People forget that there are reasons for rules and conventions. While I am not a language purist by any means I do recognize that the purpose of correct grammar, spelling and punctuation is to enhance the clarity of the message the writer is trying to communicate.

The reason why professional writers are successful is because they use language effectively to communicate ideas clearly – and that means conforming to the rules or bending them in a way that does not detract from the clarity of the message.

I receive numerous emails from students wanting to work with my company. Often their punctuation is poor, they don’t use capitals, their grammar is appalling and there are loads of spelling errors. In the worst cases they use phone text abbreviations. They forget that all I have to judge them on is a few sentences. What do I see? The student doesn’t care about making a good impression, can’t be bothered to put the effort in and pays no attention to getting detail right. Would I give them a chance ahead of someone who shows more diligence? No I would not.

The same logic applies to others who are trying to market their services. For example I often see photographer’s websites with appalling language errors. Again it indicates to me a lack of care and poor attention to detail. Immediately alarm bells start ringing. Would I trust an expensive shoot to this person? Not likely.

On the other hand I have tremendous empathy with people for whom English is not their first language. It’s a huge challenge to communicate in a foreign language and I can only praise their efforts.

Ultimately I believe that readers appreciate a carefully crafted and well written piece. The writer’s reward for putting the extra effort into their writing will be readers who are prepared to match their effort with their own effort to understand the ideas the writer is trying to communicate.

Success as a writer or photographer is far more likely if you communicate something of interest to your audience with absolute clarity.

Till soon,

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