What We Say, How We Say It

Written by: Erin Leo

In any form of communication, we need to be conscious of three things when we are speaking to someone: what we say, how we say it, and body language. This holds true even for communication that is done via the internet or social media, and today, these channels are one of the most prominent ways of reaching your audience. Despite what some may think your connection with your audience through a website or social media platform can be just as personal and important as your connection with them face-to-face.

As a social media intern at CNM, I have come to see first-hand the potential for connecting with audiences through social media content. Nonprofits especially have a very unique online presence that allows them the ability to truly reach their audience through sharing and writing content that unites people around a common cause and work ethic. It goes beyond simple, passive Facebook likes or Twitter retweets, but engages the community through multiple avenues including but not limited to fundraising events, volunteer efforts, and success stories. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone on social media who did not see the “Ice-Bucket Challenge” and not only the funds but the recognition the ALS Association received for their mission goals.

So how do you reach your audience? And not just reach them, but connect with them, make them care about what you have to say?

We approach written communication much the same way we approach face-to-face situations; we look for clues about who the speaker is and what their intentions are. We want to know if we can trust them.

As in face-to-fact contact, first impressions carry a lot of weight. One way your audience decides whether or not they can trust you is by looking at your message. What are your values and your approach to those values? What is your organization’s character and the character of your work? When designing content, you have to think about how you want your message to be presented, but you also have to think about who your audience is, and what sort of background and culture they have. Take time to think about the impressions you want to create and the types of thoughts and emotions you want to evoke from people.

Don’t underestimate the “body language” of written communication either: visual design. Does your website design reflect your organization’s message and goals? Do the pictures you take and post “feel” in line with your written content? Nowadays, people click so rapidly through information on the internet that when they do land on your page, you only have a few seconds to convince them to stay and keep reading. In terms of layout, you want to make sure your site is easily readable, simple to navigate, and aesthetically pleasing. Once you have them hooked, you want to make sure your content reads like it was written by a human being instead of churned out by an information robot.

If you can personalize your site and engage your readers, it can still be a good conversation, even though you may not necessarily be face to face. The internet is full of tips, tricks, and template designs to help get you started in designing or reinventing your website. Stronger communication, better connections, and engaging conversations can only help you achieve your goals—it’s never too late to reach out to your audience.