Want to be a better communicator? Get to know your business and the people in it.

When it comes to communicating effectively, most of the advice focuses on technique – write concisely, proof read (and proof read again!), avoid jargon etc. All good advice, but unless you truly know what you’re talking about, you’re likely to say things that don’t make sense or, worse yet, are blatantly wrong.

Whether you’re embarking on a marketing campaign, building a new website, communicating with stakeholders or your own staff, having a deep understanding of your own business environment will give you the edge. Your communication will be clear, honest, consistent and accurate. What’s more if people come back to you with questions, you’ll have the answers.

So how do you absorb this vast knowledge? An obvious starting point is simply asking questions and the cheeky follow on is, “pay attention!” Look at what’s happening around you. When you’re in those oh so tedious staff meetings, keep listening… even if you’re checking emails at the same time.

If you’re working on a project, go searching through archival folders for background. We think things change quickly these days but you’d be surprised how much information from five or ten years ago can really give you the knowledge you need to get moving swiftly and bring everyone along with you.

I recently spent time working in an organisation that had been trying to replace its intranet for over 10 years. By reading plans, proposals and intranet review documents that were 10 years old, I learned a great deal about the challenges that had caused the project to fall over repeatedly and they were exactly the same challenges still facing us.

That knowledge was invaluable – it meant I could neatly explain the ten year history to Executive Directors, I could detail how I was going to work around these challenges and I could answer questions accurately and concisely. In other words I gained valuable trust through my communication skills.

Extra bonus – I got to re-use elements of all of those documents, meaning less actual work for me!

Websites and marketing materials are definitely areas where knowing the business matters. Does your website actually describe what your product or business really does… and how it works… Really?? If there’s a disconnect here it opens the door for all sorts of customer dissatisfaction.

Be absolutely knowledge hungry, constantly absorb every little thing you can and get to know every little pocket of your business.

Perhaps you’re a financial planning firm with 11 staff, one of which is the IT coordinator; what does she really do? Since your focus is on planning you might not think to learn much about this – but when a client calls because they couldn’t get to your online portal last night, gee it’s good to know there was a scheduled maintenance window last night and as a result the portal will be even better! Suddenly a dicey client situation has becomes a really positive piece of engagement.

Finally, I’ve written all about you seeking the knowledge, but the same goes for sharing knowledge. In fact, you will build trust and rapport twice as quickly if you do this. There’s no better way to become a valuable member of the team than to help the rest of your team become more valuable too.