Outside Consultant: How Can We Set a Better Tone for Communications in 2022?

This "Outside Consultant" column by Paul Omodt, adjunct faculty member in the Opus College of Business, ran in the Star Tribune on Jan. 24, 2021.

The ongoing pandemic, the polarization of society, the rise of misinformation, and the “Great Resignation” are all heaping unprecedented changes to the business communication landscape. Internal and external audiences are increasingly pulling away from the organizations that once helped anchor, inform and inspire them. Today’s savvy business communicators need to rise to the challenge of effective communication by paying closer attention to a few old-school communication imperatives.  

Keep it simple and direct. Employees and customers have increasingly short attention spans and more media vying for that attention. Social media algorithms are feeding tailored content. Overly fluffy and complicated branding and corporate positions are losing propositions. To cut through, corporate information needs to be simplified. The most effective path in communications remains the most direct and easy to understand.  

Be honest. The free marketplace of ideas is increasingly shaped by often unseen forced choices filled with misinformation. Battling this requires business communication that is more authentic, meaningful and unfailingly honest. People tend to believe information from the sources that are closest to them. Honest information from reliable sources sets the stage for communication success.  

Stand for something. Increasingly polarization means audiences are looking for points of view that reinforce what they already believe at the same time businesses are increasingly being looked at to have a voice. Standing for something and taking part in the conversations of our time are now essential for business.  

Stay connected. Not only are customers increasingly becoming disconnected from your business, but so too are your employees. Remote working has become a new norm with nearly one-third of white-collar jobs allowing employees to live anyplace in the world. Replacing the in-person face-to-face interactions of the workplace with tools such as Slack and regular online check-ins only go so far to building strong teams and keeping them connected. Old-school methods of personalized, handwritten cards or an unscripted phone call to say thanks are more meaningful connections than a thumbs-up on a Zoom screen.  

Business communicators must consider the changes happening around us and adapt to meet them if they are to be effective in 2022. To set a better tone in 2022, connect directly, honestly and meaningfully to those important to your success.  

Paul Omodt is on faculty at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business.