BLUFing Your Communication at Work

managers resource handbook


The Importance of Curtailing Your Information to Your Target Audience

We’ve all experienced it.  We ask for an update and our employee who sits just three offices down writes you an email that takes you 20 minutes to read.  Assuming you read it.  One of the most difficult parts about being a manager is explaining the importance of audience to employees.  The concept of audience is taught in writing classes, presentation workshops and other related settings.  Audience essentially refers to the target recipient of the information, and then deliberately curtailing the data such that the target audience’s needs are met.  The difference between knowing and not knowing your audience can make the world of difference in a business setting.

In the world of business, we are overwhelmed by information.  Emails, email attachments and presentations, not to mention people walking into your office for a quick update.  As a manager, I typically want to know the final take away without having to sift through a bunch of data to figure it out.  And I’m certainly not alone in this regard.  Knowing the audience of your information is essential, not only in terms of effectively communicating to the audience, but also in terms of making sure your audience takes away the proper message that you’re hoping for.

Going back to what all managers have experienced as one point or another, think about the times when an employee sends you a 9 MB presentation.  The information he or she sent is littered with data, charts, background context and referenced documents. Connecting the dots is next to impossible.  By the end of 45 slides when you expect a punch line, you realize you forgot the question.  I’ve probably done this, too, but having been on the receiving end, I’ve learned to make a point of reviewing a given document or presentation before I send it to ensure I am delivering the right amount of information.

One great way to ensure you’ve got the utmost vital and important data is to follow the concept of B.L.U.F. – Bottom Line Up Front.  B.L.U.F. is a message I routinely teach my employees when it comes to communicating information. By placing an executive summary or something similar at the beginning indicating ‘this is what you need to know,’ it allows the receiving party to determine the level of detail they need.  BLUF is especially important when communicating to high levels within your firm, or to a customer in some settings.  As I tell my employees, senior managers and executives are not going to want to spend time trying to figure out what’s important.  Your presentation will be far more effective if you offer the conclusion and allow the recipient to dig into details as desire and time permit.

The BLUF approach drastically improves the communication of what’s important to the reader, and what the overall message is.  Sometimes details are needed. Sometimes they are not.  BLUF can help in both instances since it boils the overall message down into it simplest form of a summary.  The person on the receiving end can always choose to go into the details as they feel necessary.  It’s a simple tip, but one I’ve found useful in communicating with others.

Got any good tips like this?  We’d love to hear them!

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