In this section, we’ll learn how to deliver different types of news. While you’re reading this section, pay attention to the role that audience analysis plays. How can you communicate messages in a way that meets the reader’s needs?
Delivering Good or Neutral News
Hopefully, most of the communication you will do in the workplace will involve giving neutral or good news. Usually, a direct approach is best. Consider the context in which most people receive workplace communication. Some studies have found that the average worker receives 90 emails per day and sends 40 emails per day. Now, imagine that every time the worker receives an email, they need to spend 1 minute re-reading it because the point of the email was not immediately obvious. That would be 1.5 hours of wasted time! If you factor in lost productivity due to miscommunication, the cost is even higher.
When it comes to neutral or positive messages, usually the best strategy is to get to the point. Make it clear:
- Why you’re writing.
- What supporting details the reader needs to know.
- If the reader needs to do anything.
It’s this last point that business communicators often stumble on. They give the information, but forget to tell the audience what to do with the information. The reader is left wondering whether they’re just supposed to be aware that the information exists, or if they’re supposed to act on it in some way.
One helpful tip is to end the communication by looking towards the future. Tell the reader what you want them to do. If they merely need to be aware of the information, you could use a phrase like “If you have any questions, let me know.” If they need to do something, state it clearly. For example, you might say, “Please send your changes to this document to me by Thursday at 10 am so that I can get them into the final draft.”
You might find this format helpful:
- Be direct: start with the good news to put the reader in a positive frame of mind.
- Give supporting details, explanation and commentary. These should be clearly organized. If you have a large amount of information, you may choose to use bullet points, headings or links/attachments.
- If there are any drawbacks, state them clearly but positively. (“Please mail the defective phone back so that we can issue you a new model).
- End with a note of thanks or congratulations.
Here’s an example:
From: Ilya Marchenkova
Subject: Baby Carrier Replacement
Date: Jan. 19th 2019Ms. Meng,Thank you for emailing us about the broken strap on your baby carrier. We would be happy to send you a replacement carrier at no cost.To receive your new carrier, please:
1) Cut the straps of your damaged carrier and take a photo. Make sure that the warranty number located on the waistband of your carrier is clearly displayed. I’ve attached a PDF with a series of photos to show you how to do this.
2) Email me the photo along with your mailing address.
Once we receive this information, we will send your new carrier with next-day shipping.
Let me know if there’s anything more we can help you with.
As you can see, Ilya breaks the good news immediately, then clearly lays out what Alice needs to do next to receive the new carrier. Even the drawbacks, such as having to cut the straps on her current carrier so that it is not used by another baby, are stated positively. Ilya also includes attachments to help her easily follow his instructions. He then ends on a positive note.
Remember that when you communicate, you should always be aware of the context, audience and purpose of your message, as well as the relationship you have with your reader. Concision is highly valued in the workplace, but it should not come at the expense of tact or using a positive tone.