As I was finishing my masters degree in communications in southern California, I was looking desperately for work; but more than that I was determined to find a job that involved writing–since I had an undergraduate degree in communications and was about to add a graduate degree in the same discipline. I sent out dozens and dozens of resumes (yes, it was very much the pre-Internet, pre-email days). I even got an inteview at the Pomona daily newspaper; but no call back. I finally went to a temp firm. And they found we a job writing at a place called Eaton Leonard, where I was charged with rewriting engineer speak into everyday language for the company’s product: tube-bending machines! Yes, there has to be a machine to make you exhast pipe bend like that.
Nice people and all but, I was so grateful that one of the resumes had found paydirt and I was writing manuals for only three months before landing a position as a staff writer in the public information department at World Vision, which at the time was headquartered in Monrovia, California.
Since that time–1978–I have been involved in the communications and management side of Christian organization, causes, and public figures. Which brings me to a few words of advice for today, a communications world vastly different than 30 years ago, but guided by some timeless principles. Indeed, the most important thing you need to know about communicating publicly is that everything has changed while the important matters are entirely the same. Let me explain.
The way people receive news and information and the way they interact have changed substantially, with blinding speed. Fewer and fewer people are reading newspapers and magazines, and not as many are tuning into television and radio. Internet based media are an increasingly popular source, although even those offerings had better be quick. Mail campaigns are emailed. Followers are tweeters and it’s hard to distinguish the leaders. We’re connecting with far more people than we ever have through social networks, and there has never been less community or socialibility.
This impacts many aspects of the work of public relations and communication—what we say and how we say it. We need to feel the heartbeat of rising generations, and we need to learn and use the communications vehicles of the digital age, whether we personally like them or not. Yet at the same time, timeless communication principles are still at work, and we have to master them and practice them with regularity. At the core of a mission is its identity– who you are, your brand. We have to hit that mark and communicate it with such clarity that we cannot possibly be misunderstood. We still need to write and speak and project in concise and compelling ways. Content still counts. As odd as this may sound in our present world of ubiquious messages, iIt’s not as important that you say something everyday—through posts, tweets, status updates, links, and texts—as it is that what you say is important.
For a cause to be widely praised and supported over a long period, it must be known for regularity of your core principles, including:
1. Integrity of your program and the veracity of your assertions
2. Passion of your people toward the work at hand and the resulting deep, even sacrificial, commitment
3. Authentic human drama that captures hearts and minds
And that’s the same as it was when I originally escaped the world of tube-bending machines and began writing about God’s work and the trials and triumphs of His people around the world.