10 Sep

Do Your Communication Smoke Signals Send A Strong (or the wrong) Brand Message?

Communication Signals


 




Have you ever experienced what the kids refer to as a “pocket call,” where your smart phone accidentally gets bumped in the bottom of your purse and redials the last person you spoke to on the phone? Suddenly you’re on speaker phone and you don’t even know it. Meanwhile Google offers an email setting for users who are afraid they might send a message during happy hour that they later regret (Mail Goggles). Those who use the tool and then attempt to send an email after hours – especially on a Friday or Saturday night when lots of people head to the bars – first have to successful complete a series of simple math tests or similar exercises. If they fail the test then Google holds their email until the next morning. The idea is that sometimes it is better to sleep on it before actually hitting the send key – but that’s harder to do in this era of instant messaging.

Communication today happens in a flash through the touch of a button with the capability of sending a message around the world – and throughout your office or industry – in the blink of an eye. Gone are the good ole days where you used to actually read or write a formal letter. Technology enables smart phones to quickly retrieve our email, text, and phone messages without face to face contact – so much can get lost in translation. That’s why it’s so important that you clearly and consistently reinforce and broadcast your personal brand through every facet of your business and all of your personal and professional communications. Everyone has a certain style by which they communicate – whether in conversation, in writing, electronically, or in person – but too often we don’t take the time to think about how are we communicating and what the perception is on the other end of that message as it passes through this fast-paced world of technological transmission.

I’d like for you to think about how you do communicate as a leader and how that mode of communication is perceived by your reports as well as your superiors. To be seen as a leader your communication methods need to be on-brand, and they need to support your team in a coaching, teaching spirit. Here are a few things to consider:

What’s the Quality or Tone of Your Communication?

Ever receive an email from one of your superiors that you don’t really understand? Without body language cues or voice inflection you don’t know how to interpret it. You don’t know whether to be concerned for your job and you ask yourself if you are in some kind of trouble. So when you are using email communication it’s critical to be aware of the quality or tone you are using – and to analyze the potential for your words to be misread or misinterpreted. The person reading the email can’t see your facial expression and oftentimes they do not know if you are being playful and joking or serious and hurtful. Maybe your intention is to be professional but you composed your sentence in a way that appears flirty. You might have meant to offer a suggestion to a member of your team but they took it as a scolding.

Everyone Has a Core Communication Essence

How do you communicate your personal brand? In your email, text messages, and verbal conversations do you consistently use a formal, respectful, warm, and genuine style? Or can it be interpreted as a hurried, terse, negative, harsh, or urgent tone? As a woman leader do you sound poised and confident or nervous and unsure of yourself? Could you tweak your style to communicate in a way that is more supportive and sounds more optimistic – like a good mentor, coach, or teacher? We all have a communication essence. Get to know yours in an objective way and then use it strategically and you can do wonders to improve the quality of your brand messages.

The Formal, Genuine, and Concise Style

I used to work for a boss who always left phone messages or sent emails that were a little bit formal and to the point – but they were also genuine and warm. She gave me updates in bulleted, short emails or clear phone messages that spelled out the facts or offered a progress report regarding what she was working on to support my projects. Everyone who worked for her knew her style of communication and expected it. Just like on the old TV show Dragnet, when Sergeant Joe Friday used to say, “Just the facts, Ma’am,” she was genuine in her tone but always communicated in sound bites. We quickly learned that she was a woman of few words.

The Playful, Positive, Motivating Style

A few years later I was promoted and worked for another female boss. Her communication style was much different. She was more playful, positive, and personally motivating. She would send emails that were similar to those you might expect from a business coach, teacher, or mentor. She saw the good in all of us and she let us know it through every communication. With her you always felt that she saw your ultimate potential and she was not going to let you give up, even if you had a tough store visit and evaluation. Her true essence came across as a faith and belief in you and your unique talents and latent abilities. She saw the good in everyone, but more importantly she knew how to routinely convey that vision to each of us as she communicated.

Which Communication Style is Best?

Unfortunately there is no one perfect style of communication. You need to be unique and be who you are and leverage that in all of your communications. That’s your essence of communication. The two styles of my prior bosses were just indicative of how they worked and communicated and how their personalities came across in the workplace. Neither one was right or wrong. Both were highly effective, consistent, clear, and professional. How each of those women communicated was simply nothing more than an extension of her own authentic personal brand. The point is that as leaders it is important to realize who you are communicating with, what the situation is, and how you might need to alter your message or style of communication to fit the particular situation. But you still need to communicate in a manner or temperament that is genuine and unique to you. Otherwise you risk coming across as inauthentic. In the worst case that can breed distrust or skepticism. In the best scenario it makes you seem bland and unremarkable.

What is your brand of communication?

Ask yourself and trusted others around you who will give you honest feedback how you communicate. You may find out that your communication is being perceived differently than you intend for it to be. Here are descriptions of a few common personal brand communication styles that may help you categorize the defining characteristics of your spoken or written words:

  • Urgent
  • Sad
  • Complacent
  • Negative
  • Terse
  • Matter of Fact
  • Positive
  • Playful
  • Humorous
  • Intimate
  • Gracious

This week when you are leaving phone messages, texting, or emailing your team pause to think about what personal brand messages you are sending and how those are defining you as a leader and how they are conveying your brand into the business world.


As a pioneering and visionary innovator, Sarah is a certified professional image consultant and brand strategist, speaker, trainer and author. Her company, Illustra Consulting, provides leading-edge image and brand management strategies for top leaders and high achievers who wish to take their career to the next level. She also delivers innovative and inspiring corporate workshops to assist large organizations in strengthening their corporate brand.

Illustra Consulting
Copyright © 2010, Sarah Hathorn, AICI CIP, CPBS

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Sarah Hathorn
Sarah Hathorn, CEO of Hathorn Consulting Group, is the go-to-expert in working with leaders and companies to create successful corporate DNA. As an executive coach, consultant and speaker she collaborates globally with clients and brands such as Kimberly-Clark, Sherwin-Williams, Home Depot and other leading organizations.
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