BLUFing Your Communication at Work

managers resource handbook


How to Present 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!


  • The DR

    Some things are hard to explain to clueless managers yet affect the, say – security of key systems. As some managers / leaders have become too lazy to even know what they own, and cutting corners by glamorizing the “ability” to turn complex matters into sound bytes they become a danger depending on their position. Many managers are fools, and the people that know, know it all too well. But they are taught well to shut up like this article boastfully encourages as it causes less trouble. (not attacking the writer – I value all opinions and did learn from this article) Many leadership don’t know nearly as much as they think they do, and are lucky to have that job. So ignore difficult things – words are hard, but I’m sure most managers think they know what is going on. The truth is this proves you can’t handle the job or are a true rock star to which I bow. This is rarely seen, and it they were – they would be driven to ask more questions driving up the data count ANYWAY. I am sick of lazy managers/leaders that think data is the enemy when they just got lazy, or don’t care is usually the case – but it will not be admitted. I bet the 1st people they blame when something goes south are the “taught” ones that learned to write 4 page pptx slides – then they didn’t do enough. Quit being lazy. Words aren’t hard… Delegate and get out of the way or learn to read at least some of the things people spent extra work they knew they didn’t need to do – to help support and educate you as they are likely trying to respectfully lead you to a better path you only think you know of. A shortcut to know if you should read a long email or preso – if it includes more work for the person or team presenting it – pay more attention as they take it serious, so should you. If it’s designed to get them out of work – look for the team / person that will take on more to make it real. That is the shortcut – not pretending complex matters are sound bytes if you are truly in control. Otherwise you are coasting. Also this is very important – if you can’t digest data from your directs, that means you are not digesting data from your peers either as they shrink the data too as it becomes culture – so it cascades into fast or gradual failure and massive disconnect., GL.

    • Thank you for your thoughts on this topic, we appreciate the participation!

      Unfortunately, there are certainly lazy managers out there who do not want to take the time to understand the details that their employees spent a long time putting together, and simply want a short summary to make their life easier. This is true.

      However, there are legitimately times and situations where good managers simply need help synthesizing data and information to help make decisions faster. So while there are certainly bad managers out there who do not want to exert the effort to understand (we all know some), the point of the article was simply to share a concept that can help people communicate more efficiently in the office (when appropriate and necessary).

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts!

      Tim G.
      The Manager’s Resource Handbook

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