We are not all expert communicators, especially when it comes to business. At times, we have to bring in the outside experts—copywriters and marketing or branding consultants. In preparing to work with them, it’s important to provide context and preparation. This will help these professionals to provide the right message to the right audience, and save time and money in having to develop multiple drafts.
Try these tips from Elena Langdon to help you tap into some extra power.
Know thy contractors. Before selecting an outside communications consultant, ask about expertise in your specific setting or field, not just years of experience. For example, if you hire a copywriter for a newsletter or website, look at her portfolio to see if she’s worked in your line of business before. Working directly with the contractor makes this easier, but if you are getting proposals through an agency, many will also provide information on the individual’s credentials and past work.
Explain your audience. Clue the contractor in about whom they’ll be working with. For example, if you’re looking for a consultant to deliver a workshop on employee engagement, let them know what your corporate structure looks like. Names and roles are especially helpful, as are division, unit and project names. This will help make the workshop relevant and personalized, even though an outsider is presenting it.
State your purpose. Your team and your counterparts across the table might know why you are discussing a contract, but an external expert brought in for the day won’t. What are the team’s goals? Are the
stakes high and the situation tense? Think of communication experts as extensions of your team and brief them accordingly. If they know your objectives, they can better understand you and transmit your message accurately.
Get it in writing. Perhaps this is obvious, but make sure you draw up a contract when working with an external contractor. Some important sections to include are confidentiality, deliverables and duration of work. Consider licenses, certification and insurance, too, if there is any risk involved in the work being supplied.
Provide context. Clear communication depends on contextual knowledge, so provide as much background information as possible. Let’s say you need an interpreter to help you sort out an HR problem with an employee who is more comfortable in another language. Inform the interpreter about any previous meetings, the main issues to be discussed, the type of work the employee does and anything else you think is relevant.
Explain specific jargon and acronyms. Your internal jargon or acronyms might be second nature to you at this point, but they probably sound like alphabet soup to an outsider. A short list or glossary can be helpful so that time isn’t wasted trying to decipher “the BPO merger” or the “quarterly up-queue.”
Consider your space. If you will be working with someone who will need to speak to your employees or visitors, let them know w
hat the physical space looks like. Will you be sitting, standing or touring a facility? How many people need to hear the external contractor? Will you play a video or will participants join via Skype or speakerphone? Knowing this information will allow the external expert to better prepare for the situation or even suggest things you haven’t thought about.
Make the most of their time. Whether it’s an hourly rate or a monthly quota of deliverables, you are paying for the contractor’s time. Think of ways to shorten meetings, including agenda items and committee work that does not involve the contractor. The more focused you are while the external consultant is on the clock, the better.
Send files ahead of time. Always send any documentation that will be discussed a few days in advance. Agendas, contracts, previous meeting minutes, presentation slides—anything that provides context and terminology will greatly enhance communication and save time during the actual meeting or event.
Source: Elena Langdon is a certified Portuguese-to-English translator and interpreter, and an active member of the American Translators Association. The American Translators Association represents more than 10,000 translators and interpreters across 91 countries. Along with advancing the translation and interpreting professions, ATA promotes the education and development of language services providers and consumers alike.
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