Posted by: Kristen Ridley | October 28, 2012

My Favourite Communicator Things

Remember “The Sound of Music” and the wonderful Julie Andrews as Maria singing about her favourite things? I love that song! [Here’s a link in case you aren’t familiar]. I came across a reference to it earlier this week, and it reminded me that while I’m all for cream-coloured ponies and crisp apple strudel, MY favourite things tend to be connected to communications, which shouldn’t be terribly surprising, considering that I’ve spent the past 10+ years working as a communicator 😉

I thought I’d make a list of my favourite communication-related things, for a couple of reasons: a) so I can remember to be grateful for them, and b) just in case any of MY favourite communication things might be helpful to anyone out there reading.

Kristen’s Favourite Communication Things

Other Communicators – this is an obvious one, and probably the most important one, because communication is a job and a skill that simply cannot be done well, heck – it can’t be done AT ALL! – in a vacuum. Being a good communicator means being able to connect and interact effectively with many other people. So having a network of other communication professionals is not only critical to draw on for information and advice when you come up against a challenge you’ve never faced before, but they also understand – TRULY understand, as nobody else possibly can – what you are up against on a daily basis as a communicator. My communicator network is most definitely my “favourite” favourite thing, so it had to be the first item on my list!!

Reference material – We communicators are always in a rush. The work we do is so often deadline-driven and unplanned, that we really need to be able to put our hands on the answers to questions, the source of a quote, or any myriad other number of odd and esoteric bits of information our work might demand. And while Google is nice, I still like having a physical library of reference materials at my fingertips. So building up a useful list of reference materials has been extremely helpful to me through the years. Things like: CP Style Guide [it’s the AP Style guide for my U.S. readers], a dictionary, a thesaurus [or thesaurus.com works too] What They Said [a quote encyclopedia I love], Getting Things Done When You Are Not in Charge [I read this book years ago, and have found it’s advice has never gotten stale], The Public Relations Writer’s Handbook, Tactical Transparency by Shel Holtz & John Havens, Why Should the Boss Listen to You by James Lukaszewski [I wrote an earlier post reviewing this terrific book] and, what’s probably my absolute favourite book EVER when it comes to effective communications – Why Business People Speak like Idiots. I could go on, but you get the idea. Having a library of reference materials is really important to my ability to effectively and efficiently do my job.

Twitter – this is a more recent addition to my list of favourite things, but it has really become a valuable one. It took me a while to warm up to Twitter, because until I really learned how to make good use of it, it seemed like nothing but a big, irritating time-waster. But once I figured out how to identify people to follow – people who do what I do, and who have much larger circles than I will ever even hope to build, I realized that a couple of quick scans through my Twitter feed a few times a day can yield enormous amounts of articles, insights and other information that I can use to become a stronger, more successful communicator. The ROI on Twitter information is enormous, as long as you use it the right way for you. Now, I can’t imagine going through an entire day without scanning my Twitter feed for what’s new and interesting and it hasn’t let me down yet.

Reading – it almost seems redundant to me that I would even NEED to say that to be a good communicator, you also must read, preferably widely and frequently, but it IS one of my favourite things in the whole world, so I had to put it on this list. And I’m not alone! Stephen King once said: ” If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.”  And if Stephen King isn’t enough of an authority for you, how about Harvard Business Review? Here’s an article I read [via Twitter! See earlier item above] a while back “For Those Who Want to Lead, Read“. Realistically, I think anyone, doing any job could benefit from reading more, but it’s especially important for communicators, who write for a living. The more experience we have with how others communicate, the better we’ll be at improving our own communications. For me, it’s that simple, and that complicated.

Perspective – this is a big one! The job I do is such that I am NEVER in a position to “tell” the people I’m working with what to do. I am almost always trying to influence others to do something, when they do not report to me, when whatever I’m working on with them is just one of many other things they are responsible to do, and in corporate environments where the demands are frequent and demanding. So there are plenty of days when things just don’t go the way I’d hoped they would. And on such days, being able to find my perspective, and keep the crazy things that happen within that perspective, is pretty much what keeps me sane on a day-to-day basis. How do I do that, you ask? Well, partially I lean on those other communicators I mentioned up there as the first item on this list. They are all incredibly smart, giving and thoughtful people who are happy to offer advice, encouragement, or just a shoulder to whine on every now and then. They understand what I deal with, because they deal with it too, so they are a great resource for the difficult days. I also really love a couple I discovered a while back called “Marc and Angel Hack Life”. They post and tweet inspirational stuff on a daily basis, and it is always uplifting and helpful. One of my recent particular favourites from them was “10 things winners do differently“, but pretty much everything they write is simple but powerful and I really enjoy their perspective, which informs MY perspective, and that can never be a bad thing.

So, there they are, for what they’re worth – a few of my favourite things as a communicator. I’d love to hear about YOUR favourite things, so please take a moment and share them in the comments if you’re so inclined, and Thanks!

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