Sep 12

5 x 5 Client Communication

Communicating with a potential or existing client – important stakeholders – needs to be on a level that’s either “readable” or “perfectly readable”. A signal of ‘5’ is perfectly readable. The same is true with the clarity of your message: ideally, you want another “5”.

Signal and Clarity

The 5x5 of CommunicationHow do you know if your signal is clear, if its readable or better, and not merely a “1” or “2” out of “5”? One thing you can and should do even before you choose the communication channel is ensure you understand your main message. Or messages. If you don’t, your audience won’t.

Another thing you can do is examine how you structured your message. Does it have ‘bookends’; a message supported by a strong introduction and conclusion? If it’s persuasive, does it have a call to action? In other words, what’s the net purpose of your message? Is it to get someone to support your cause, visit your website, or perhaps be informed? If it’s persuasive, consider the AIDA sequence: Attention, Interest, Desire, and… Action. The sequence, or formula as some call it, doesn’t only have to be relegated to pure marketing.

So you’re working on your signal. How about it’s clarity?

There are numerous tools out there to help you determine if your message is sound, and clear, and you can certainly use some of them before you cast your blueprint. For example, as I write this blog post, its relative effectiveness is being measured by the Flesch Reading Ease Formula. I’m constantly being prompted to change, modify, shorten, clarify. (This doesn’t mean I’m doing a good job. You’ll be the judge of that!)

There are other tools, and some of the more simple (even if mildly effective) are right at our fingertips. The following is an example.

Many of you will use Microsoft® Word to compose your messages. I do a lot of the time, and in fact I teach Word and some writing basics to college students. Word has a very standard way of checking spelling and grammar. You can up that game ever so slightly by altering one of its options. Note that this choice exists in versions of Word up to 2013:

  1. From a blank or any document in Word, click File, and then click Options
  2. Choose Proofing from the categories in the left panel
  3. In the When correcting spelling and grammar in Word section, check what the drop-down menu beside Writing Style says. If it says Grammar, click the arrow, and change it to Grammar and Style.
  4. Click OK

Here’s another (shamefully) simple tip, and I learned this from a radio guest I and a friend interviewed a few times on one of our online shows. The client asks you a question. You answer the question, but then you ask the client: ‘did I answer your question’? You may be surprised how many times this results in a request for slight clarification.


We all communicate. Every day. With friends, family, clients, coworkers. This list is long. We do so verbally, through writing, drawing, and through non-verbal gestures. Even how we dress communicates something to our audience. Yet some of our communications may suffer from a weak signal, or a lack of clarity. The 5 x 5 or “loud and clear” formula is a potential guide you can follow. There are others.

Keep it Brief

Brevity is often considered important by our audience. This is very true if our audience consists of busy business people. Get to the point!

I used to have an employer who, though genuinely greeting us every morning, would keep his greetings to the bare essentials. The same held true when he was holding or attending a business meeting. He used to, efficiently I would now call it, move from “how are you” to “what’s on your mind”. I like chit chat. But over time, I learned to respect his approach.

Many business reports or pitches have an executive summary as part of their front matter. Depending on your relationship with your client(s), you may need to executive summary it on occasion. Give her or him a thumbnail view that perhaps has main talking points or actionable items. If she or he wants the rest, well, that’s why you’re there, or why you wrote that 50-page report! It’s been my experience that brevity in the business world is appreciated.

Did you find something of value in this article? Please let me know.

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