I don’t know who first came up with the idea of FAQs, but I have a feeling it was someone who didn’t know how to communicate effectively.
Because if you’re a good communicator, you don’t need FAQs. Everything you write or say is well received. People have positive impressions of you. And you get the results you want from your team, customers and peers.
But many leaders aren’t born communicators, which probably contributed to the birth of FAQs.
Here are the problems FAQs create:
- They make it too easy to water down your message. The more you focus on FAQs, the less attention you pay to your actual message—e.g., talking points, video or email.
- They open you up to unnecessary scrutiny. Concocting horrendous scenarios can put ideas into people’s heads that maybe weren’t there before.
- They feel disingenuous. Nobody wants to page through a laundry list of questions and answers. They want to hear a sound message from you that makes them feel respected and provides a clear direction for the future.
So, what should you do instead? Simple.
- Ask yourself two questions. First, what are the perceptions I’m trying to influence? Second, what are the behaviors I’m trying to change? The answers will help you know how to communicate better. If people are mad, what do you need to say to smooth their feathers? If clients aren’t paying their bills, what do you need to say to get them to send a check?
- Write well. Craft your message in a way that the benefits to stakeholders are clear, the hard truth is conveyed and the way forward is spelled out. In essence, your message should be so well written that it can answer any question you may be asked.
Nail these techniques and you’ll keep everyone on track and your reputation intact—without an FAQ.
Before you act . . .
To prepare for tough questions, craft crisp, clear key messages that state the who, what, when, where and WHY of what’s happening. If necessary, use phrases such as “Not exactly. Let me explain” or “I can’t speak to that, but here’s what I can tell you.” They help you block others from dragging you into the weeds and bridge back to your key message.