Tag Archives: communications

Don’t Be Afraid to Use Strong Language

Use fewer, stronger words to make your grant applications, reports and proposals more successful and effective.

I see so many documents that use soft, cushiony words instead of strong, emphatic words.  Not using strong language in a proposal offers an opportunity for the recipient to say NO, or at least not make a decision.  Using soft terms in a report diminishes the results and accomplishments.  Using weak words in a grant application make you seem hesitant or unsure of the effort/organization for which you seek funding.  Not using strong words is not only a wasted opportunity; it can also have long term impact on funding and perception.

By using weak words, people often use too many words.  Too many words can be perceived as propping up a lame idea or program.  Often you are limited in how many words you can include in a grant application or report.  The reason for the limit is to ensure the writer is succinct.  Weak wording almost always results in excess words.

Another impact of both more words and weak words is that the reader will not read everything you write.  This can result in them not having full understanding of what you are proposing or reporting.  Ask yourself how often you have stopped reading something because your brain froze-up due to the wording and length.

You probably do not even realize that you are using weak words or that you are too wordy.  So here are some examples of ways to strengthen and shorten your message.

  • Instead of saying “will give students an opportunity to . . .” replace will give with
  • In place of shows use demonstrates
  • Replace this sentence: We expect that they will generate insights that will help improve operations

With this: We will gather insights from Key Stakeholders that will improve operations.

  • Instead of: We are requesting funding for training because without a comprehensive understanding of how a human services agency should operate in order to meet the purpose and goals of the agency, staff will not be working at their optimum and most effective level.

Try this:  The requested funding will finance staff training that will improve their efficiency and increase the effectiveness of our services.

  • Substitute for:  This study will attempt to gain an understanding of the community needs and obstacles through a comprehensive community engagement and input effort.

This:  This study will gather pertinent data on needs and obstacles through interviews and focus groups.

  • Another example of wordy to impactful.
  • Wordy:  Using a carefully crafted process, we will lead the Board through an assessment that will result in the discovery of the obstacles and misunderstandings that inhibit the realization of our organization’s goals.

Impactful:  We will use our proven evaluation process to help the Board identify the actions necessary to accomplish our goals.

 

Here are a few examples of weak, unsure words and phrases:

  • Will attempt to (just use will)
  • In an effort to (again, just use will, or maybe pair will with a strong verb such as the ones below)
  • Plan to collect (replace plan to with will)
  • Try
  • Attempt

 

And here are some strong, confident words:

  • Provide
  • Demonstrate
  • Obtain
  • Impact
  • Direct
  • Add
  • Present
  • Outcomes
  • Effect

 

Remember these things the next time your write something important.

  • Fluff does not enhance
  • Extra words do not increase the impact of the statement
  • Brevity is powerful
  • Direct has impact
  • Verbs are stronger than verb phrases
  • Confidence convinces
  • Get to the point
  • And never, ever whine!
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Guard Your Professional Reputation

As Social Media continues to grow in reach and scope it is very important to represent your organization/agency and yourself as professional.  It is important to keep your professional interactions separate from personal ones on Social Media websites such as Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.  Much has been said said about how the wrong postings on can hurt chances for employment.  The same advice applies to your organization or agency.  Any posting you, or anyone who represents your organization puts online reflects on your organization.  The easiest way is to keep them separate — have a page/presence for your organization and one for yourself.  You may also want to make the personal one available only to friends, while the organization one can be open to the public so that you can use it more effectively to promote your programs and services.

Keeping your reputation and image positive is important everywhere.  Here is one of the Actions in my book 101 Winning Marketing Actions for Small Businesses. Just replace the business references with ones that are applicable to your organization.

Action #93  Keep your reputation positive.

If you do not live up to the promises and claims you make, you will lose existing Customers/Clients or never really have a chance with a new Prospect.  Sometimes it is easy to get caught up in the moment and say yes when you should not.  Be sure that you do not sign the contract unless you know you can do everything promised and required in the manner it must be done according to the specified schedule.  Remember that word-of-mouth is the best or worst friend of a Small Business; if you do fall victim to over promising or committing, people will know.  Also, many government agencies and businesses can, and may, exclude you from future bidding and consideration if you fail to meet your commitments.

Remember that it is better to be known well by a few than to be known widely for the wrong reasons.

Secret Tactic for Getting A Response

If I had a dollar for every time I could not move forward because I could not get a response from someone, I could go on a luxury trip.

If I had a dollar for every time one of my clients was on hold because they could not get an answer from someone, I could retire now.

How about you?  Have you ever been held up because a co-worker, client, partner or friend would not respond?

It seems that it would be easier to get a response from someone, anyone, with all the means of communication we have today.  When most people have their cell phone (smart or otherwise) with them all the time, it should be easy to call, text or email a response.  And since we are all becoming more comfortable with shorthand communication (lol, BFF and other abbreviations and emoticons) it only takes seconds to respond.  So, why is it so hard to get an answer, an RSVP or at least an acknowledgment?

My theory is that usually there is not enough stimulus to make someone take action.  Here are some examples:

  • There is no consequence or the consequence is not clear.
  • Other things are taking the person’s attention and your question is not “loud” enough (i.e. squeaky wheel gets the grease).
  • The person is rude or lazy and needs a prod.
  • The person has a short attention span and forgets your request as soon as they see or hear it.
  • The message did not make it to their mailbox or voice mail.
  • Some people just can’t make decisions.

So, is there anything you can do to get that response you need?  Yes!

Here is a tactic I have used effectively many times.  When you make the request, state that if you do not hear from them by a specific date or time, that you will assume _____________  (fill in the blank with whatever is appropriate) and you will proceed with ______________.  If it is the first time you have asked a person for some kind of information or decision, you may want to ask them once without a deadline; then after a reasonable length of time (that doesn’t put you in a bind) send a second request with the deadline.  No, this is not rude.  As a matter of fact it is kind.  By providing the deadline, you will let the person know how important their response is and help them prioritize it among all the other things in their mind.  You may also relieve them of having to make a decision if you make it for them with your assumption.  Another thing to consider is all the other people that are affected if you cannot move forward;  is it fair to make them wait because one person cannot or does not respond?

Here are some examples of this assumption tactic:

  • If I do not hear from you by Friday at 4:00 pm, I will assume you cannot participate and move on to our next choice.
  • If I do not hear from you by next Wednesday, August 12, 2012,  (always provide date to avoid confusion) I will assume you are not interested in this project.
  • If I do not hear from you by close of business today I will assume you will be at the meeting tomorrow and will let the committee know.
  • If we do not receive a response from you by April 2, 2012, we will assume you will not be partnering on this project.

There are a few risks of using this tactic.  You must way the risks and consequences of using it versus the ones of not getting a response:

  • You may irritate the person you are trying to get a response from.
  • You may get the reputation of being impatient or pushy.
  • If you are female you may get called some unflattering names.
  • Your deadline message may not make it to the intended recipient.  You may want to follow up the message with an alternate method (i.e. If you send an email, follow it up with a text or phone call/voice mail).
  • You could even lose a partner, client, friend, committee member, etc.  But if someone reacts this strongly to a deadline the relationship/partnership was probably doomed anyway.
  • Be prepared to be the recipient of a deadline when you are asked for a response.  Because some people will retaliate and some people will adopt the tactic.

If you decide to try this tactic, let me know how it works for you.

Diet for Your Promotion and Publicity Plan

Before Atkins & South Beach diets and before The Biggest Loser, diets were not weight loss tools.  A person’s diet was the foods he/she ate.  The healthier the diet, the healthier the person.  And a healthy person could accomplish more, enjoy things more and have a better life.

Today we think of a diet as a tool to help us lose weight.  But most of us realize that if the diet is solely to lose weight, the weight probably will come back once we are off the diet.  But if the diet helps you become healthier then the weight comes off, stays off and life gets better.

So if your Promotion & Publicity plans and efforts are not moving you forward at the proper pace or at all, you need a healthier diet for them.

Here are questions you can ask to determine if your Promotion & Publicity plans are healthy:

  • Can I measure the results of time, efforts and dollars spent (or do I even know what the results are)?
  • Do my staff, partners, funders, etc. know what results we need from Promotion & Publicity?
  • When I make a change (i.e. new logo) or add something (i.e. mail-out) do I have a specific result in mind (i.e. new clients in a program) or am I changing because it seemed to be time.
  • Have I been able to realize new clients of funding increases as a result of the time I spend on in-person and social networking.  Or to put it another way, are the people who “like” my organization benefiting us.
  • Do I have an idea of the ROI (Return on Investment) for the Promotion & Publicity dollars I spend? Could your time and/or money be better spent on something else?
  • Are your Marketing & Sales activities driven by someone else – competitors, trend setters, etc.? If they are, do those people know your business and do they have your interest at heart?

If you are not pleased by your answers to these questions, it may be time to put your Promotion & Publicity plans on a diet.  Yes, it may be time to do some of the following:

  • Reduce fat – if I am paying someone else to do my promotion, publicity, social media, etc. could we do it internally as well or better and save money?  Are there efforts or advertising I could spend less time and money on and not hurt my results?
  • Increase fiber – Am I networking directly with potential clients, partners, and funders?
  • Increase fruits and vegetables – Am I properly serving my current clients, partners and donors in ways that will increase their loyalty and participation?
  • Get appropriate protein – Am I concentrating my Promotion & Publicity efforts on the clients that are the core of our mission?
  • Limit desserts – Am I appropriately mixing the fun stuff with the have to do stuff so that my work life is balanced but profitable?

Most any organization can benefit from increasing revenue without inappropriately increasing cost because that expands your ability to provide programs and services.  A healthy Publicity & Promotion plan is a major component of a healthy and fit ROI.

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