Communication tips from a 5 year old
I’m not really a girly girl. I don’t like the colour pink, fluffy dogs or babies.
But there are two things in my life that can make me go ‘ah’ and that’s my nieces, who are 4 and 5 years old.
Unfortunately, I don’t get to see them as often as I would like as they live a few hours away. But last weekend I had the pleasure of looking after them.
Between the reading, painting, Disney Princess snap, Dora the Explorer computer games and splashing through rivers in the forest, I realised that actually, as communicators, we could learn a lot from the younger (well, much younger) generation, and their way of viewing the world.
1). Don’t lie
Shame on me, but I might have told a couple of white lies over the weekend. ‘Yes, I’ll play Disney snap with you after dinner’, and then not following through because I had to go out. And there is nothing quite like a 5 year old to make you feel guilty!
Honesty should be a core trait for any communicator. Despite the reputation that the PR industry sometimes has as spin doctors, what we do, and the messages we send out should always be truthful. This should be the essence for everyone you deal with, from clients – telling them truthfully what results they can expect – to journalists. In fact, especially journalists. If you don’t know something, say so. If you can’t make a deadline, say so. It’s much better to be honest, and then try and rectify the situation, than it is to lie and be caught out when you don’t deliver.
2). Put your foot down
My nieces putting their foot down may have transpired into tantrums! But, they might well be onto something with their belief in what they were standing up for. Often clients ask us to do something which we know isn’t going to work. If you go ahead, simply to please your client, then you risk damaging your reputation with third parties (for example spamming newsdesks with crap, non-newsworthy press releases), and also the client, who will eventually wonder why your outputs aren’t getting results. We’re consultants, and should act as such.
3). Be creative
The weekend was full of reading, drawing and painting. Things I actually used to love to do but never make the time for anymore. Being creative is a core part of communication; no one wants the same tired approach over and over again. Make time for creative brainstorming with your team, and to read publications relevant to your clients for inspiration.
4). Pay attention to detail
It’s amazing what a 5 year old can notice. One of my favourite comments ever said by my youngest niece was ‘Your earrings don’t match your dress’. She was 3 at the time. Now, I personally believe that they matched fine, but this attention to detail can often be overlooked in a busy working environment. Always double or triple check everything you do – from ensuring you’ve got the right people CC’d into emails, making sure you’ve brought biscuits for that important meeting, and of course right the way down to written copy. This attention to details is what sets apart a great communicator from a good one.
5). Don’t give up
My eldest niece is an amazing reader, and when she got stuck at a word she stopped, took a long look at it and broke it into sounds. Nine out of ten times she got the word right. Seeing the attention paid to the task, and how determined she was to succeed was really inspiring. I know myself I often dread making certain calls, or doing certain things – that follow up call to a journalist, or that final chase to a client for approval – but it is important not to give up. The results are worth it in the end!