Curiosity is the most important ability of a communicator. Writing skills, close relationships with the media, lessons learned at school come only after that. Without the curiosity and desire to understand what you see communication is almost impossible. If your heart is not involved, the text will remain hollow. Even when it comes to business strategy or market reviews.
The desire and fire to understand things takes the communicator to the very core of things – and customers. It makes interviews genuine and intimate. It helps the interviewees to talk and give more of themselves. When I am sincere with my questions, the other person will want to give me true answers.
I am a Research Scientist by my first profession. I had a long career in the pharmaceutical industry developing asthma medications. There I learned that science is an endless swamp or space that you never know enough about. The deeper you go, the better you realize that you actually know nothing. Yet the soul of the scientist wants to go right there. To explore the unknown.
Also, in the field of communication, you should not assume, but listen. Listen to the customer and feel free to ask for more until you are sure to get the right picture of things. That’s when articles, communication strategies, and branding projects move in the right direction. Relying on my research background, I don’t usually make a very precise framework for questions before the interviews, but I focus on understanding what it’s all about. When I understand correctly, I can also write the story.
Albert Einstein has said, “if you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”. It sums up the core of communication. Forget ornamental phrases, corporate jargon and the language of bureaucracy. Imagine you are telling the story to your peer – to an intelligent and humane person. Then Einstein will live in you, too.
Experience from research has also given other kinds of benefits. It makes you search for information, be critical of sources, and construct clear thoughts from messy ingredients. Sometimes, however, there are times when eagerness to analytical thinking should also be pushed aside. It is not always necessary to dig everything down to the bottom, but to know how to draw a boundary with what is sufficient.
The brain of the researcher and the communicator is constantly mourning, but the difference in the flow of thought is subtle. The communicator must be constantly aware of what is happening in the society and the environment. What kind of things the media is talking about, what (mega) trends are surfacing right now or are soon to emerge? And what are already yesterday’s news? The researcher’s brain, which is found in all of us communicators, combines the dots in a way that benefits the client.
Communication work is a unique combination of timeliness, desire for knowledge and humanity. The best thing about this job is the moment when the client relaxes and opens up and wants to tell their story. It is a gift that the communicator gratefully accepts. Then we will be where we need to be. In the core of communication.