Constant communications

Mobile phone mast and blue skyCurrent awareness and communications go hand in hand. Technology is at the heart of information exchange, but effective communication between information professionals and clients is vital. It’s a complex issue and deserves closer investigation.

‘Language is constant’

A twenty year career in information services teaches you the importance of communication. During a conference Sir Tim Berners-Lee stated that ‘language is constant’, even if technology has evolved. I noted the importance of effective written and spoken communication skills in my CILIP Professional Development Report published in 1999.

My report made reference to the ways people communicated in an office environment. For instance, user surveys, inductions, meetings, training, written instructions, consultations and staff management. It is safe to assume that without communications, there is no point to us being at work.

Communicating with team members

The reason for team communication is to coordinate work and avoid duplication of effort. In small teams it is easy to feedback information on work done, progress on projects, or record queries. But larger teams appreciate a more sophisticated, formalised process. For instance, databases to manage research, rotas, staff meetings, and regular catch ups to co-ordinate project work.

Information sharing promotes trust, builds respect and inspires confidence within the team. If communication fails between management and staff, it can become unpleasant. This applies to any organisation or business. Openness and honesty within and without the team is essential.

Communication with customers

Communication with customers or clients is something that takes place every day. Letters, voice mail, email, direct messages, Skype, text message – we are spoilt for choice. How we use them depends on the nature of the communication. For example, what is appropriate for a Skype conversation would not be appropriate for a formal email.

Most people are happy with short informal notes on everyday matters. Yet I would suggest that use of appropriate language is more important than ever. In my view, a business email should be polite, grammatically correct, and present a professional image to the outside world. There is no excuse for poor proofing.

I’ve talked about helping me to help you. Ultimately the method of communication shouldn’t matter. Listening to and extracting information from clients is an important and valuable skill. And done right, it builds that platform of trust.

Publicity and promotion of information services

Whatever you should do should contribute to promoting your service. A free news service should speak for you and be a way into selling your skills. Developments in social media means users can communicate with information providers in new ways. The professional has to assess what is realistic and acceptable for their service. But we should all consider intranets, blogs, LinkedIn and twitter accounts.

In-house information services should make the most of their captive audience. From news bulletins and end user training, research services and specialist skills. Everything work-related should publicise and promote the service within the firm. Never has the ability to promote your information service and yourself been so important.

Be the centre of your information world

I used to think of the information service being like the centre of the spiders web, connecting all departments of the company or firm. But independent information provision is more like a spirograph. My client is the new centre and information revolves around you. We ensure an organised pattern of inter-connectivity.

It is only possible to do this if we have the ability to write well, present clearly and coherently. Communication is indeed constant. Everything that I do, you do, and they do, revolves around communications. And this isn’t going to change any time soon.