As I like to remind readers, and as I have done so here and here, effective communications must be a priority for every executive. And yet, there is a tendency to associate articulateness – never mind eloquence and the mellifluous construction of sentences, which stand as grand edifices of rhetorical power – with slickness, or as some throwaway piece of art: A talent, to be sure, but an irrelevant one in an era of text messages, tweets, comments and fragmented speech. If anything, literate people – those who can read and write – sound anything but; their monosyllabic declarations of “Yes” and “No” are the verbal equivalent of a thumbs-up or thumbs-down brand of “conversation.” My advice to these individuals, many of them business owners and entrepreneurs, is, in a word, simple: Stop.
Unless executives stop this behavior, and until they recognize the necessity of powerful communications, they will not achieve their goals. Nor will they earn the trust of consumers, investors, potential financial partners or the media as a whole. Nowhere is this issue more urgent, in the aftermath of near economic collapse and the onset of the Great Recession, than on Wall Street. I refer to this proper noun both as a specific point of geography, in Lower Manhattan, and as a euphemism for the traders, analysts, brokers and fund managers, who work well beyond the southernmost tip of New York City. For these individuals – the men and women charged with translating the arcane symbols, graphs and charts of an investment fund into plain English – communications is not a luxury or an indulgence; it is an unofficial duty – it should be an accepted part of any professional's responsibilities – to speak with conviction, write with clarity and act with authority.
Alas, so very few have this ability. But, among those who invest in communications as a means to educate prospective investors, there is someone worthy of praise. That person is John Cole Scott, Executive Vice President of Closed-End Fund Advisors (“CEFA”), which builds portfolios for individual and institutional clients, through either direct work with clients or through financial advisors and planners.
Full disclosure: John is a personal friend, one I admire for his talents as an author and speaker, whose newsletter I read in its entirety and whose correspondence I save for its reverence for language. My colleague's podcast with John, which is available here, showcases these skills in greater detail. It is the conversational manner by which he explains things – it is John’s extemporaneous role as teacher and financial sage – that reassures me all is not for naught. Meaning: There are successful executives and investors – some of whom are extremely successful – because they understand the value of smart communications.
Maintaining the Momentum and Staying Visible: The Frequency of Communications and the Delivery of Genuine News
Just as an analyst or investor will parse the financial language of a stock or mutual fund – just as he or she will read the numbers, which tell a story about a company's true worth or a portfolio's projected performance – so, too, will that same person communicate this information to the right audience. That investor, and John proves this point, will do two important things. Bear in mind, as well, that these statements apply to all industries; the tactics are universal, while the content will (naturally) differ among various businesses.
First, an executive will offer actual news – in the form of an announcement or commentary about a noteworthy subject – that will be persuasive and easy to understand, and compelling enough to share and discuss with others. That material must have a voice, distinctive in its delivery and sincere in the beliefs it conveys, so the words themselves – printed as magazine copy or transmitted electronically – will resonate. Put another way, if we want to learn the facts we need the sentences to sing.
And secondly, an executive will maintain the momentum he or she starts. To capture people's attention is one thing, but to sustain their collective interest – to transform readers into subscribers, and convert supporters into clients – requires frequency of communications. Translation: Keep making news! Keep producing high-quality content, substantiated by facts and presented with vigor, because the alternative – silence – is unacceptable, period.
These recommendations are neither new nor profound. I come to motivate, not to philosophize about the universe or humankind. Let the truly great thinkers ponder those matters because, in comparison, every executive should realize how obvious – and obviously essential – it is, instead, to be a good communicator.
Accomplishing this mission is not hard, provided companies invest in the right people, with the right gifts, to make communications the supreme assignment it should be; the ultimate undertaking it must be.
Patricia Baronowski-Schneider is Founder and President of Pristine Advisers, a marketing and communications professional with over 23 years experience in the financial communications and media relations industry.