I VotedElection Day 2014. Today is the day when we, as Americans, have the opportunity to fulfill our right, neigh our responsibility, to have our collective voice heard. In another sense, it also marks the end of the plethora of television commercials, unwanted telephone solicitations, and landscape destroying yard signs.

But I digress. Election Day is the culmination of some of the worst communications practices of all time. Have you ever heard someone say; "Hey, that was such a great advertisement, I think I'll vote that way!" Doubtful. Most people fall into the "I thought the 'do not call list' meant I wouldn't get these incessant political robo-calls anymore!" camp!

Start. Stop. Continue.
Effective communications are meant to change behavior. Whether you're making a pitch to your boss or discussing dinner options with your soul mate, you communicate to influence the behavior of your audience. It might be as simple as influencing them to have sympathy for you. You may want your audience to start doing something new. New behaviors take teaching. Or maybe you want them to stop doing something they currently are doing. Here you may elect to explain the risks of continuing. Or, maybe you want them to continue doing what they're doing – but do it just a little differently (oh no – change!) which may be the most difficult of all. At the end of the day, nearly every communication opportunity is a "training" opportunity and a chance to influence your audience's future behavior.

Start with facts then address emotion.
Effective communication starts with building an understanding of the "what" and the "why," Especially when change is involved, communicating exactly what is changing – and what is staying the same – and why it is important to the team or organization is critical. Let's face it – while we're all emotional beings, rational thought is a good place to start! Next, effective communication is candid – not sugar coated. What is the magnitude of the behavior you are trying to influence? It's one thing to get your friend to pick your favorite restaurant; it's another to get fellow team members to clean up after themselves in the employee break room! Also, don't forget to keep the proper perspective about the behavior you are trying to influence (this falls into the "this isn't rocket science" category!).

Next, recognize the fears and concerns your audience might feel about your communication... and help them work through these feelings if possible. When dealing with these fears and concerns, be sure to focus your communications on what's important "right now." No need to confuse things further. Finally, when change is afoot, be sure to build in time for people to have the opportunity to grieve the loss of their dear friend: familiarity. Grieving the lost past – often thought to be "the good ol' days" – is an important part of a successful communication strategy.

The Winner's Circle
Effective communication campaigns have purposeful celebrations built in. "Quick Wins" are often sought out to help build momentum behind the new behaviors. Longer term, be sure to plan the celebration for the team once the change/transition has been accomplished.

Election Day 2014. It makes me wonder if our politicians followed some of these simple communication strategy basics then we might see a greater voter turnout than the 49%-59% we've seen in Presidential elections (not to mention the paltry midterm election turnout!) since 1972. Now, get out there and vote!

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