Written by Holly Jeffery-Goodall
I am, as I have been told many times, in a rather unique situation. By day, I work in Media Relations in the Definition 6 London office. By night, I live in a convent. It’s only temporary, you understand, but it does give everyone in the office a great deal of amusement to call me a ‘Trainee Nun’.
On a daily basis, I communicate with people I have never met in countries I haven’t yet been to, and in the office too, where a mixture of different cultural habits is continually present and discussed. The workings of the NHS compared to the Portuguese healthcare system is a recent example, with the ways that both cultures view this huge organisation being both informative and, at times, downright hilarious. I have learnt, in the short time that I have been working here, the importance of communication in a business setting, the tailoring of pitches and responses to suit the intended audience.
Recently, I have begun to realise how that affects my ‘home’ life on a similar basis. We tailor our responses to all communication, even unconsciously. You wouldn’t swear in front of an elderly relative or small child, but in front of friends, it’s (mostly) perfectly acceptable. We are constantly learning new methods of communication, depending on the people we meet and the ways in which we engage them.
At home, I have had to prevent myself using the phrase ‘Oh my God!’, but in the office or out with friends, it’s perfectly common. Engaging in regular communication with a nun is at the best of times, a pleasant experience, they are continually positive and really rather lovely. It can be, however, rather strenuous if one doesn’t know what to say. The golden rule with nuns: take it slow, frame your conversation with description and nice things, and don’t make too many references to pop culture. They have, however, heard of One Direction. Unfortunately.
When speaking with journalists and broadcasters, the opposite is true: Don’t waffle. Make your point, ask as few questions as possible, be professional. These are busy people, they probably don’t want to discuss your love of knitting, and how beautiful the Houses of Parliament look at dusk.
Communication then, is the most useful tool anyone in our industry has in their arsenal. In fact, communication is the most useful tool in the world’s arsenal. Social media allows us to engage with different cultures on different platforms every day, which is incredible. The more personal touches such as communication via phone and in person, allow us to advance our knowledge of communication as an ever changing medium, to engage with more people with confidence, and to tailor our responses to ensure that your messages are always translated cross-culturally in an appropriate and hopefully beneficial way.