As we turn the page for a New Year we reflect on the achievements of 2012 and we look to the future in 2013. Our personal goals are likely to be about being more physically fit or achieving a better work-life balance. Coming out of a global recession, an organization’s goal is likely to be fitter financially. How does your organization achieve financial fitness? For many in the nation’s capital, 2013 will require thinking outside of the box and clear communication.
The growing diversity of our city presents an opportunity for organizations to leverage the skills of its diverse workforce to boost productivity and insights into the demands of a changing local market. Being a clear communicator in order to reach ALL of you audiences – employees, clients and stakeholders is essential.
When I began my work in communications, diversity was for me, not much more than a concept to keep in mind when producing brochures that were representative of Canada’s population. However, since volunteering as a career mentor with newcomers, I now understand diversity as an important consideration that guides much of my communications work.
To the Point
One of the biggest challenges to communications today is clear language. Have you ever heard of anyone being criticized for being too clear?
More than 200 languages were reported as spoken at home or as mother tongue in Statistics Canada’s 2011 census. In fact, 20.6% of Canadians or 6.8 million people reported a mother tongue other than English or French. This considerable language diversity should signal to your organization the importance of using clear and concise language to cater to your stakeholders, clients, and customers.
What is in a word?
Through my volunteer mentor experience, I learned that it is especially hard to get noticed as a potential employee when you do not speak the lingo (specific language) for a specialized field. For example, communicators or public affairs professionals are often called “spin doctors”. No, they can’t diagnose if you have the flu. They can, however, turn a negative story in the most positive light possible.
In addition to industry jargon, acronyms are one of my personal pet peeves. It seems every organization and sector has its very own set of coded alphabet letters to designate a program or a policy. Did you know that ABC can mean the Audit Bureau of Circulations, the Allied Boating Association of Canada or the American Broadcasting Company? Are you sure all of your stakeholders and employees understand this particular way of communicating?
If you are a newcomer to Canada, such jargon and acronyms may be lost in translation. And these days one out of every ten skilled workers in Ottawa is a newcomer. If you are an organization looking to hire the best and brightest talent, you may be missing out on strong, globally-minded candidates.
Instant Success (or Failure)
We live in a 24/7 media world. Social media makes the old concept of word-of-mouth marketing instantaneous and far-reaching. A blogger’s take on your organization will quickly influence whether others “like” your offering or openly criticize it.
Being aware of the global reach of your social media communications and the diversity of our population, I urge you to consider diverse communication styles and language competencies in your 140 character messages.
Outside the Box
In 2013 if you find that your communications strategies aren’t appealing to diverse audiences, it is time to think outside the box and rebrand.
There is no quick fix. However, a great opportunity to help new Canadians with job search, and in turn better appreciate communications differences between cultures is by becoming a career mentor with the Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization (OCISO). It has definitely helped me in my work.
To summarize, bringing diversity into your communications strategies and having clear and jargon-free messaging might just be what the spin doctor ordered!
By day, Mélanie Drouin is a senior communications advisor trying hard to write in plain language and minimize acronyms and jargon in the federal government. In the evening, she volunteers her time as a career mentor with the Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization (OCISO) .
Hire Immigrants Ottawa works with local employers to help them effectively hire and integrate skilled immigrants into their workplaces. We have free training throughout the year on cross-cultural communications.