Why Good Companies Should Follow the 7 C's For Clear External Communication

In the 1952 book Effective Public Relations, published by Scott M. Cutlip and Allen H. Center, the authors proposed a list of principles for PR teams they called “The 7 C’s of Communication”. Though it was written long ago, their principles still have incredible relevance in 2021, particularly for external communication in customer service and on social media.

Clear communication is important for all companies, but for those trying to expand through multilingualism like users of Babbel for Business, it  becomes even more important. While companies develop their language skills and expand into new foreign markets, it’s important to be alert to avoid miscommunication in these new arenas. Fortunately, these 7 principles provide a good roadmap that any external communication team can follow for clear messaging in any language:

1.Completeness: Give All Relevant Information at Once

According to research from McKinsey & Company, many teams spend about 30% of their week answering emails – and everyone knows just how frustrating and inefficient that can feel. In many cases, problems that take dozens of emails to hash out could’ve been avoided if the first email had given more specific instructions from start to finish. Just as completeness in internal communication saves time and money, completeness in external communication can lead to more customers retained and more sales.

For sales and PR teams, taking the time to prepare messaging that is complete and clear when it goes out to the masses both saves time and money in the long run and prevents customer confusion. The same applies to using social media to promote giveaways, products, or events as well as in customer service. If all the relevant information is given at once and with enough context, it saves your customers time and allows them to connect with your brand more easily.

2. Conciseness: Say It in the Fewest Words Possible

Aside from taking more time and costing more, overwriting also increases the chance that the people receiving it will get bored or lost along the way. The solution to this is conciseness in all external communication – it shows that your company appreciates the customer’s time and wants to share value with them as quickly and painlessly as possible. As an added benefit, enrolling your external communication teams in conciseness has the added benefit of sharpening your messaging and getting rid of all superfluous information.

3. Consideration: Focus On the Customer

According to research from Deloitte, 60% of long-term customers describe their connection to their favorite brands using emotional language – and 39% of people switch brands after having a bad experience. This underscores the importance of empathy and connection in external communication – and it all starts with consideration.

In this context, consideration means having empathy for the people you’re communicating with and trying to see their perspective as much as possible. While being complete and concise is important, those principles don’t take you very far if the message itself isn’t relevant to the customer and their values. Begin with thinking about the customer’s wants and needs, and the other principles will follow.

4. Concreteness: Be Specific

If you had the choice between clicking on one of these two headlines, which would you choose: “How to Increase Sales” or “How to 2x Your Sales in a Week”? In most cases, the second one is more compelling because it offers more concreteness and specificity. Rather than just promising the reader a general increase, it also promises a ratio and a time frame. Even in this simple example, it’s easy to see the power of concreteness.

Though it can be tempting for companies to cast as wide a net as possible in their marketing, it often makes more sense to get very specific about who could benefit from your product or service and targeting them directly. This principle is particularly relevant for companies in international business, where a  concrete understanding of a foreign market’s culture and language is key to effective communication here.

5. Courtesy: Show Respect

Companies can have a variety of different brands, and some are more “edgy” than others. Even so, the importance of courtesy in dealing with customers is always important. It is particularly important for customer service representatives to respect customers’ problems and offer solutions, even in the face of strong emotions. Similarly, it’s important that advertising and social media streams be positive and worth people’s time.

Courtesy is particularly important when it comes to using foreign languages and external communication with international markets. Ford found this out the hard way when trying to advertise in Belgium with a slogan they thought read, “Every car has a high-quality body.” When translated, Belgian customers read this as, “Every car has a high-quality corpse.” Their faux pas shows how important corporate language learning can be in avoiding ads that are disrespectful or inappropriate.

6. Clarity: Keep It Simple

Clarity is often a byproduct of following all the other principles but its importance can’t be overstated. Often, a company whose website or social media stream isn’t optimized will bombard readers and potential customers with information that isn’t relevant to them or with copy that is long and ambiguous. All of these mistakes create opportunities for customers to become disengaged, which hurts the company. To avoid this, make sure your external communication teams have clear goals for all their interactions and campaigns – and express them as directly as possible.

7. Correctness: Be Accurate

In the Deloitte study mentioned above, consumers valued trustworthiness (83%), integrity (79%) and honesty (77%) in their favored brands higher than any other values. This has clear implications for external communication teams, in that what a company shares needs to be accurate in order to preserve the brand’s integrity.

When presenting hard data, explaining a promotion, or explaining a customer service solution, accuracy is paramount to keeping consumers satisfied. While most good companies wouldn’t intentionally spread false information, mistakes can still happen – and the results can be damaging. To avoid this, slow down and double check information before sharing it widely.

It’s clear that the seven C’s have application for external communication teams of all kinds, and they are more relevant than ever in the face of rapid globalization. As business gets more international, multilingual employees who can speak clearly, fluently and compellingly to various markets will become more and more important. For these reasons and others, corporate language learning services like those offered by Babbel for Business are invaluable for companies looking to sharpen their external communication and take their business to the next level.

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Interested in improving your customer communication with language learning? Check out our new handbook for customer service teams.



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