Advice Column: Effectively Communicating Achievement

As per the posting earlier this week about the EMEA, and in preparation for an upcoming trip to the U.K., I’ve been reading and comparing the Web sites of the FDA with the EMEA.  It provides some interesting points that I’ll be talking about in future posts.  But one thing that I noticed is how large entities such as these, often communicate achievement. 

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And that is, by checklist.   Documents are put together that simply enumerate achievement.  Consider the FDA’s own 2006 Innovations in Patient Safety, Medical Product Development, and New Technologies where we see an impressive list of things that the agency accomplished for the year or the EMEA press release on its 2006 Annual report.  I have not done an analysis, but this approach seems very common, not only by government agencies, but also I suspect on the part of the private sector.

The problem with that approach is, however, that it provides no context for the achievements.  A checklist or tally of numbers is all well and good, but particularly when, like the FDA, you are trying to crawl out of a damaged image, it is important to convey that context.  Here, for example, in the FDA document, rather than merely list accomplishments, it would be much more impactful and impressive to see a chart where there are four columns. 

  • The  first column is labeled PROBLEM and the nature of the problem or the goal is stated.
  • The second column would be labeled FDA ACTIONFirst of all, it is a dynamic heading that shows the FDA coming to the rescue.  Second it is strong.  In that column would see what the FDA did to address the problem – i.e., approved 5 drugs, instituted a program of safety checks – whatever. 
  • In the third column we would see RESULTS – a characterization of the impact of the intervention – what was the outcome?
  • Lastly, the fourth column would be VISION – what else is on the horizon?  Anticipate your critics and address their issues here and minimize their ability to say you don’t have vision.  Use this is a blunting tool and one to show that you don’t think the job is done – because no one else will think that it is done.

Isn’t that better? 

This is a dynamic environment that demands dynamic communications.  The checklist simply doesn’t cut it in today’s world, particularly for public agencies or large companies where large bodies of disparate people are demanding a range of results.  They each of their hand on a part of the elephant and know only that part. 

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To some it looks like this:

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To others, like this:

But the challenge to professional communicators to best show them perspectives from all sides, not just each part, that will make the story you tell much more exciting than a checklist, whether agency or publicly held company.

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