You may be speaking English to English speakers, but if you are talking over their head, or delivering irrelevant information, your message is not being understood. Add to that the challenge of speaking to a splintered internal audience that holds doctorates, GED’s, and/or speaks English as a second language, and external audiences that have no background in the subject matter, and you have quite the communications challenge on your hands. It’s something that Kelly Katapodis is very familiar with, serving as the Head of Comms and PR at SOPHiA Genetics and previously as Director of Marketing at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Brighton, MA.
“Many of us in healthcare have to communicate complex, technical topics in a way that can be easily understood by internal and external audiences,” she said. “The challenge is figuring out how to loop in the audience and connect with them to further the business at hand.
Kelly says the first step in crafting any message is understanding “the why” of the message. “Remember your potential readers will be asking, ‘Why are you telling me this’, and ‘Why is this happening’? If the communication answers those questions, there is a much higher likelihood that it will be seen as relevant and will be read.”
Whether the audience is comprised of employees and patients or potential customers, asking “why” is just as important for the writer as it is for the recipient. Internal communications set the tone for the organization’s culture. External communications need to be carefully “translated” so readers can understand and connect.
She uses the five “Ws” of journalism to organize her approach and weave common sense into a complicated communication equation. Being intentional and proceeding with clarity of purpose helps determine where the audience is and increases the chances they will be listening.
- Who are you trying to reach?
- What is the message? What are you trying to say?
- When do they need to receive it, in what cadence and timing?
- Where will people see the message, on what platforms?
- Why is the communication being sent?
For communicators working inside large organizations, the audience will always be splintered, and there isn’t necessarily the luxury of crafting multiple laser focused messages. Kelly has one piece of advice, “You may not nail it the first time, but that’s ok. Have a desire to learn what works, evolve your style, and your success rate will continue to grow and you will continue to improve the rate at which you connect with an ever changing, diverse audience.”