Getting the APCs Right (Audience, Purpose, Context) in your Communications

Audience, Purpose, ContextEvery communication project begins with analysis of the APCs; audience, purpose, and context. Before creating your communication, you should know who you are communicating with, why, and under what circumstances. And by communication project I’m talking about everything from a telephone conversation with your great aunt Elsa, to producing a multi-million dollar blockbuster movie. Literally every communication has these three components at its core.

Analysis

Your analysis of audience, purpose and context can be informal or very formal and extensive. How much effort you put into analyzing APC is determined by the scope of your project and the overall return on investment of the communication. When you’re composing an email to a coworker, you probably work out in your mind the ACPs while you’re drafting the email. At the other extreme, you may want to conduct some primary or secondary research into your target audience, how best to communicate with them, how best to get them to act on your message, and under what circumstances (when, where, and how) to deliver your message so it has the greatest impact.

Audience

Who you want to communicate with is probably your first consideration. First of all, how many people? Is it 100 or 100,000? You want to know about their demographics, as well as commonalities and unique qualities. You want to know about audience age, sex, nationality, language abilities, their knowledge of or experience level with the message you want to share with them. Is it one monolithic audience or are there five distinct sub-audiences? Can one communication reach the audience, or does it require multiple pieces each aimed at a sub-audience. For example, you might best reach your audience who are in their 20s one way with one type of message, and the over 50 audience a different way with a different type of message.

Purpose

Why you’re communicating with your audience and why the audience wants to hear your message is the second consideration. Are you inviting your uncle Bud to Thanksgiving dinner and looking for a “yes” answer, or are you trying to convince 150,000 associates to complete their required compliance training by the end of the month? For training/performance improvement pieces, you want to show your audience how to perform the task and give them practice and feedback as they learn it. For these pieces, you’re trying to change behavior.

Context

The context of your communication is also critical. Are you yelling “fire!” because you just started a grease fire in your kitchen? Or maybe you’re writing about your company’s quarterly performance for your stockholders while you follow various templates, get certain reviews, and meet certain timelines. For this discussion of corporate technical communications, we’re usually talking about internal and external communications that we have at least some time to prepare. Our typical modes of delivery include; live broadcast, recorded presentations, email, documents, guides, and eLearning.

After you’ve determined the audience, purpose, and context you can design and craft the message. When drafting your piece, typically, you’ll use the persuasive writing style. More about that in a future article.

WriterTech Elevator Speech, What is Technical Communication?

Image of two people shaking hands. One is thinking "what is Technical Communication?"Every organization, and even every individual when you think about it, creates three types of communications. We create Corporate Communications, Marketing Communications, and everything else we can lump into Technical Communications. My typical elevator speech mentions all three types and how I specialize in Technical Communications.

Corporate Communications

Companies of every size create internal and external corporate communication pieces. Internally, companies communicate HR policies, business goals, standards, compliance, metrics, performance, sales, benefits, job role descriptions, corporate governance, promotions, etc. Externally, companies communicate with local, state and the federal government, as well as with the business community, business partners, the legal community, and the financial community; lenders, stock markets, etc. Depending upon the size of the organization, these pieces may be created by senior management, the legal team, and with assistance from one or more Corp Comms specialists.

Marketing Communications

Marcom includes everything from business cards to television spots, and everything in between. Ads have to be written. Marcom can include; promotional items, web site copy, branding, trademarks, trade names, video clips, webinars, social media, radio, newspaper, and television, and on and on.

Technical Communications

Everything that isn’t Corp comms or Marcom is T-Comms. And even some of what is Corp Comms or Marcom is also T-Comms. Sound confusing? It isn’t. There’s obviously some overlap between Corp Comms, Marcom and T-Comms. The overlap depends upon a number of factors, not the least of which is the size and specialization of your organization. For the purposes of this post, Technical Communications includes:

  • Product and service descriptions and details
  • Instructional design, eLearning design, Training
  • Whitepapers, user guides
  • Information distributed with your product or service
  • Installation and maintenance guides
  • Line art, branding, images, drawings, and graphics
  • Proposals
  • Internal and external how-to guides
  • Translation and localization

XML Viewer SharePoint Web Part, Open RSS Feed Article Links in New Tab

RSSFeedSharePointI publish several RSS feeds (including this blog) on my SharePoint Foundation 2010 site. To do this, I use the XML Viewer web part. In the custom XSL all I had to do was add target=”_blank” in the <a href> line to have the links open in a new tab instead of replacing my SharePoint site in the current browser tab. Here’s how that line looks in my custom XSL.

<a target=”_blank” href=”{$item_link}” title=”{$item_title}”>

Solution

I found the solution here: http://sharepoint.stackexchange.com/questions/61587/rss-viewer-customization

Content Management System for Distributed and Mobile Teams

SharePointThe question is… how does your team draft, review, publish, share, and maintain content for your distributed and mobile work force while managing the flexibility, security, and cost of the system?

SharePoint

One answer may be to use SharePoint on the back end and a browser and mobile client on the front end. Out of the box SharePoint is a pretty decent platform for a group of content creators to organize, draft, and publish content for the team, or even the entire organization. SharePoint allows fairly sophisticated security so that only approved users have access. It allows routing and approval of drafts, archiving, libraries, custom lists, and a bunch more. SharePoint is a capable and secure many-to-many platform for internal communications, user assistance, sales info, proposals, video, audio, training, compliance, etc.

SharePoint on your Mobile Device

Content creators can create and consumers can consume anywhere, anytime using the Internet Explorer (IE) browser on the computer or even using an application on iOS or Android. On Android, I’m currently using SPConnect SharePoint Version 0.85 by AcquiredNotions Inc. SPConnect allows me to access my self-hosted SharePoint site without having to log in each time. I can open, edit and save changes to documents and other files. This app is available in the Google Play store.

SPConnect

Office 365

Other options in addition to hosting your own SharePoint servers in your own data centers is to have them hosted for you by a company that specializes in this sort of thing. You can subscribe directly with Microsoft or there are a number of companies offering hosted SharePoint. SharePoint Online can be integrated with Office 365. If you have a qualifying Office 365 subscription, you can use the Microsoft Office Mobile application.

For a small business, an Office 365 subscription may be the way to go the get email, office applications, and content management all in one package. This is the hassle-free solution. You don’t have to build or maintain it. You just log in and it works.

eLearning Course “Elaborateness”

ROI CloudJust as you (probably?) wouldn’t spend $1000 on an expensive meal for your dog, you wouldn’t spend a lot of money to show four guys in the shop how to enter their time in the new time-entry system.

By elaborateness, I’m talking about how much time and effort you put into your course, or any communication piece, to make it highly polished and professional looking and acting. The level of effort (cost) that you allocate to create your communication piece (e.g., email, letter, conference call, document, memo, user guide, job aid, eLearning course, etc.) depends upon several factors.

Return on Investment (ROI)

How expensive your course is to create, publish, test, and maintain has to be in proportion to the learning goals, the size of the audience, and the expected return on investment (ROI) compared to other delivery modes such as virtual ILT or a simple email.

The elaborateness of an eLearning course can range from the short and simple single course to the lengthy, highly interactive, multi-character, audio and video-rich curriculum.

An Expensive Process

Even short and simple eLearning is generally pretty expensive to create and maintain when you consider the entire process. The course has to be written, produced in an authoring tool (Lectora, Storyline, Articulate Presenter, etc.), narrated, tested, edited, reviewed, published, and set up in the LMS. Before going down this path, you should have a good idea of the ROI.

Do Some Analysis First

At the low end, you and or your team might get together to craft your message. This is appropriate for immediate needs such as press releases, putting out fires, email to staff, simple polices and procedures, etc. For more involved interventions, you or your team should do some research, analysis and produce a written report that describes the problem or gap, presents options for correcting or closing the gap, costs, timeline, audience analysis, stakeholders, metrics, success factors, etc. With the report, and its conclusions agreed to and the budget approved, then you and your team can create the interventions, then monitor progress and report your success.

Gotta go, my two 15-inch beagles have a hankering for lobster tail and filet mignon.

Gigabyte NVIDIA GeForce GT 640 F52 vBIOS Supports UEFI

GigabyteNVIDIAGeForceGT640smallI did some digging and found that the F52 vBIOS update for my Gigabyte video card (GV-N640OC-2GI) supports UEFI.

In January 2014 I performed a clean install of Windows 8.1 on my year-old HP P7-1439 desktop computer. This machine originally came with Windows 8, but I installed Windows 7 Ultimate. So, I was making the round trip back to Windows 8 (actually 8.1). At the time, I was unaware of UEFI but eventually figured out the workaround. Install Windows 8 without the add-in video card, change the UEFI BIOS to enable legacy mode and disable secure boot. Then physically install the add-in video card and install the Nvidia software/driver.

This worked fine. But I wondered if Gigabyte offered a vBIOS that supports UEFI.

I looked here: http://www.gigabyte.us/products/product-page.aspx?pid=4255&dl=1#bios and used the VGA_@BIOS tool to determine that I had the F50 vBIOS. The site says to stay within the series when upgrading. So the upgrade is the F52. I emailed Gigabyte and they confirmed that this vBIOS supports UEFI.

After flashing F52, I can confirm that this vBIOS does indeed support UEFI. I went back to the UEFI/BIOS settings and disabled legacy mode and re-enabled secure boot.

Windows XP, IE6 for LMS/eLearning Course Testing

Windows XP Pro LogoIn 2013 I set up an old Dell OptiPlex GX260 computer with a fresh install of Windows XP Pro SP3 and Internet Explorer 6. I use this machine to test eLearning courses that have to work with IE6. This machine is joined to my domain and is under the control of my WSUS server for updates. So, I have to be careful not to approve IE7 or IE8, and I imagine, related updates.

Platforms for Course Testing

This is just one of several platforms that I use to test LMS’s and eLearning courses. Others include IE9, IE10, IE11, Google Chrome, and Firefox, on Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1. We also normally have to test several versions of Safari on several generations of iPad as well as the Mac.

I can log into this machine, or any of my other machines, from anywhere using either Remote Desktop Connection (RDP) or Remote Web Access (RWA).

November 1, 2014 Update, eliminated IE6 Test Machine

I eliminated the GX260 machine that had IE 6. I replaced it with a Dell GX620 box with Windows XP Pro SP3 and Internet Explorer 8. This configuration is what some larger corporate clients still have deployed. I understand however, that the clock is ticking to eliminate these machines from corporate networks.