How much can you simplify communication about complex issues? How much can you dumb things down before you start sounding dumb? And when does clickbaiting undermine your credibility and efforts to communicate sincerely?
These were not the questions being asked in the session “How to communicate better ‒ Finding effective and strategic ways to (re)frame messages”. They were however the questions I struggled with as I listened in on the session as a member of the press.
On a conference packed with complex and serious issues such as migration, nationalism, and populism – the session on communicating better offered a very practical approach. The speaker presented a toolbox with 10 practical tips on connecting with your audience – such as avoiding jargon and using active voice.
Not bad advice – but hopefully not news to any of the communications professionals attending.
And also not very helpful for those seeking inspiration on how to find effective and strategic ways to reframe messages, as was promised in the programme.
The tips in the toolbox seemed primarily suited for attracting attention. There was little help to find on how to communicate complex and sometimes controversial issues or how to create compelling stories. The focus on getting people to click made some of the tricks seem a little clickbaity. Probably something to be cautious of for foundations who want to be taken seriously.
As the tips themselves, I couldn’t help wonder who they were meant for. And who the session was for. On the one hand, the tips and the exercises seemed too practical to be of any interest to people not working in communications.
On the other hand the issues were presented and discussed were too basic to be of much interest to anyone working professionally with communication.
It was great to see EFC and the presenter call attention to the importance of communication as a discipline central to modern foundations – and open up the debate on how they might approach the area.
And it was great to see that the theme was able to draw a small and enthusiastic crowd even late in the afternoon on the second day of the conference.
But, regrettably, the focus on practical tips seemed to stop the attendees from discussing the more fundamental issues of communication with regards to the critical themes and questions raised by the conference. On top of that, the description of the session in the programme promised something quite different from what we got. As a result a great initiative with an enticing title led to a rather disappointing experience.
Janus Moos is the founding partner of Danmarks Fonde.