Good communication doesn’t confuse

April 29, 2020

A few days before the country was locked down Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern explained the four levels.

As has happened so many times she was congratulated for good communication.

But a little more than five weeks later, Cactus Kate points that if what was said about what happens at which level still held, we wouldn’t be stuck in level three now.

You are already there.

You are already there

You are already even here.

We’ve been repeatedly told the reason for the hard lockdown is the goal of elimination of the virus.

As the definitions for yesterday’s word of the day, showed elimination for those of us who speak English means getting rid of something.

Epidemiologists and politicians speak another language and it was only a few days ago that we learned that elimination doesn’t mean the same thing to them as it does to us.

And on Monday, Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield and the PM told us that we had, by the epidemiological definition, eliminated Covid-19.

But yesterday we were told that wasn’t the case:

At yesterday’s daily press conference Dr Bloomfield was asked whether New Zealand had achieved elimination.

It was his answer that “we’ve achieved [elimination] through alert level 4” – and the Prime Minister chipping in that New Zealand “currently” had eliminated the virus – that resulted in yesterday’s confusion.

Realising the waters had been muddied, Dr Bloomfield arrived at Parliament today armed with a clarification.

Asked whether he accepted yesterday’s remarks had given the country and the rest of the world a false impression, and whether he was concerned New Zealanders would be breathing a sigh of relief at a time they should still be vigilant, Dr Bloomfield didn’t mince his words.

“I can just clarify we haven’t eliminated it, and we haven’t eradicated it.”

He said elimination is about having a low number of cases, and a knowledge of where they’re coming from and identifying people early.

Then it’s a case of stamping out the virus and continuing to maintain strict border restrictions to be sure no new cases are being imported.

Elimination is by no means eradication and the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said this is a situation of entering into the world of epidemioligist-speak.

“And they know well what each of these terms mean in a health sense, but of course in an every day sense they mean, often, something different.

“Elimination doesn’t mean zero cases… we will have to keep stamping Covid out until there’s a vaccine,” she said. . . 

It’s not good enough to blame the jargon.

Good communicators put jargon into everyday language, using words that we all understand and whose definitions fit our understanding.

National’s health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse said Dr Bloomfield probably felt the need to clarify on behalf of the Prime Minister.

“This underscores the importance of talking in plain English. The public are not epidemioligists, they don’t have the same information the Prime Minister has and it’s really important they get on the same page, talk in English, and make it clear to New Zealanders where we’re at and how we’ve got to stay there.” . . .

I think we’re now clear that elimination doesn’t mean what we think it means but, we are no clearer on what the levels mean.

We’re told there’s no evidence of community transmission and that the disease is contained. It’s not quite so clear whether no evidence means there’s no risk of community transmission or if we’re now down to the risk of only household transmission.

But if we can take the information on alert levels to mean what it says, it ought to mean we can go down to level two, if not one.

But yesterday we only went to level 3 and while there’s the expectation this will last no more than a fortnight, there’s no certainty.

Given that the information on levels is different from what’s happening, there’s even less certainty.

The communication on this is confused when it needs to be clear.

Good communication isn’t just about getting your message across, it’s also about ensuring the people to whom you’re communicating understand what you’re saying and clarifying any confusion when they don’t.


365 days of gratitude

July 30, 2018

Remember when toll calls used to be reserved for matters of great moment and overseas calls were even rarer?

Not only were those overseas conversations rare, they were stilted because of the delay between the person at one end of the call speaking and the words reaching the listener at the other end.

Now it is both easier and cheaper to speak to people almost anywhere in the world.

Technological improvements have improved the quality and dropped the cost of calls.

Chats with family and friends who live in other places no longer have to wait for life’s big moments nor do they break most budgets.

Today we chatted to people in Auckland and Argentina as easily and at no greater cost than if they were in our neighbourhood.

Tonight I’m grateful for the ease and relative low cost of phone calls, domestic and international.


Did you get alert?

November 27, 2017

Civil Defence sent an emergency alert to mobile phones last night.

My farmer got it but I didn’t.

A few minutes later I read a tweet from a woman saying her husband had got the message and she hadn’t too.

I was just about to reply to the tweet saying the same had happened to us when I got the alert.

I hope that in a real emergency those few minutes wouldn’t matter.

A bigger problem was that I swiped my phone when I got the message, it disappeared before I’d read it properly and there’s no record of it.

An even bigger problem was that a lot of people didn’t get it at all.

In a real emergency there will be other methods of communication but mobile phones could be the best way to alert many people.

 


Rural coverage not sparking

May 23, 2017

Technological progress ought to bring better mobile coverage but we’ve found it’s got  worse when we’re on the road.

We used to get good reception up the Waitaki Valley from Duntroon to the Otematata saddle, now it’s intermittent.

State Highway 1 from Christchurch south has suffered a similar drop in reliable reception and on other roads we use often, coverage is no longer consistent.

My farmer and I were blaming new phones and called into a Spark shop to discuss the issue last week.

The helpful young man who served us fired up his computer which told him that the changeover to 3G means rural coverage isn’t sparking as it used to. It’s led to patchy reception in many of the areas where it used to be better.

Friends who use Vodafone and 2Degrees tell us they are faring no better.

This isn’t just a matter of convenience.

Reliable mobile coverage is necessary for many rural businesses and it can also be a matter of safety when there’s an accident or illness.

We’re in desperate need of a bright spark to come up with a solution to improve reception and ensure mobile coverage is at its sparkling best.

 


366 days of gratitude

June 30, 2016

Not too long ago toll calls were so expensive they were rarely made and reserved for matters of great moment.

Calling between countries was even more costly – unless as friends and I once did, you could find a phone box in London which enabled you to call New Zealand for a very few pennies.

Technological developments have brought great leaps in telecommunications, increasing the ease of calling and decreasing the cost.

A niece phoned me from France recently for no cost at all.

I haven’t found a company offering free overseas calls in New Zealand but Internet options like Skype and Facetime do the same thing at no extra cost, and enable you to not only hear but also see the person with whom you’re conversing.

I’m now in the happy position of being able to talk to family and friends anywhere in the world without counting the cost and I’m grateful for that.


Saturday’s smiles

June 11, 2016

You know how sometimes women and men have communication problems, that’s because it’s not about the nail:


366 days of gratitude

March 9, 2016

The home in which I grew up had one telephone.

It was attached to the wall in what we called the sun room.

As its name suggests it was warm on a good day but in inclement weather or at night it was cold.

If you didn’t need privacy or quiet you could stretch the cord far enough to converse in the kitchen which was always warm. But if you wanted to hear properly or keep your conversation to yourself you had to stay put regardless of the temperature.

How much easier it is now when most phones are cordless and many are mobile.

Today I’m grateful for portable and mobile communication.

 

 


366 days of gratitude

February 25, 2016

Phone calls, emails, texts and a variety of social media make keeping in touch with friends and family much easier, and more instantaneous, than they’ve ever been.

But there’s still something about a handwritten note on paper or a card that comes in the post.

Today I’m grateful for hand-written correspondence, all the more so for its rarity nowadays.


366 days of gratitude

February 22, 2016

Many years ago at a parent-teacher meeting for a three-teacher country school, someone raised the desirability of the school having an answerphone.

The principal wasn’t in favour because he’d have to listen to the messages in his breaks.

One parent pointed out that would be preferable to fielding a lot of calls and many of the messages would not require a call back but he wasn’t persuaded.

Answerphones were fairly new back then, now they’re common place for land lines and part of the package for mobiles.

They have their disadvantages – when you leave a message you don’t know if, or when, it will be listened to; and not everyone listens to every message.

But providing the messages left are clear, concise and provide the name and number required for a response, they serve a useful purpose.

Today I’m grateful for answerphones, and to the people who give their name and number clearly at both the start and end of their messages.

 


Wills Ag Communciator of the Year

June 14, 2014

Federated Farmers’ president Bruce Wills is the 2014 Landcorp Agricultural Communicator of the Year.

 . . .In the three years he has led Federated Farmers, Bruce has been an outstanding communicator, successfully representing the interests of farmers with his open, friendly and enthusiastic manner, helped by his willingness to listen to people.

Ahead of several other very worthy recipients, Bruce was selected by an independent panel of judges to receive this prestigious award, announced at an awards dinner in Hamilton last night.

Bruce farms with his brother at Te Pohue, on a sheep and beef operation carrying 7500 stock units. The farm is 1134 hectares, of which 800 hectares are farmed and the balance is in trees and 110 hectares which are protected through the QEII National Trust. He left a career in rural banking after 20 years to return to the family farm and has invested heavily in the long-term sustainability of the farm.

In its 28th year, the Landcorp Agricultural Communicator of the Year Award is administered by the New Zealand Guild of Agricultural Journalists and Communicators, and recognises excellence in communicating agricultural issues, events or information.

 Regarded as the premier award for agricultural communicators, it is also the most valuable prize on offer. Landcorp provides a prize of $2500, which is part of a funding package of $7500 in sponsorship for the Guild. The additional funding assists with administration costs, including the Awards dinner.

Bruce was also presented with a greenstone and timber trophy, which features a roll call of previous winners engraved on the back.

Guild President Graeme Peters said Bruce is a very worthy recipient of this year’s award.

“He is widely respected for his role in bridging the gap between rural and urban people, and has spent countless hours talking not only farmers to but also urban people, selling the importance of agriculture to New Zealand’s economy.

“His communication skills at all levels and covering all aspects of rural life are recognised by this award.”

Federated Farmers has had a much improved public profile under Wills’ leadership thanks in no part to his willingness and ability to communicate clearly and honestly.

He’s given praise when and where it’s due but has also been willing to accept criticism without being defensive.

He has been a strong advocate for farmers, farming and wider rural issues and has earned this recognition.

 

 

 


Communication better and worse

December 26, 2013

Through one of the marvels of modern Science, I am enabled, this Christmas Day, to speak to all my peoples throughout the Empire. I take it as a good omen that Wireless should have reached its present perfection at a time when the Empire has been linked in closer union. For it offers us immense possibilities to make that union closer still.

These are the opening lines of the first royal Christmas broadcast, made by King George V in 1932, the background to which you can read here.

Illustrating how far communication has come since then, this year’s royal Christmas speech is on YouTube.

Technological advances have made it much easier, and relatively cheaper, to communicate with people all around the world.

When I went on my OE in the early 80s, I made two phone calls home in 11 months. Our daughter’s on her OE now and we chat several times a week via Facetime or skype.

It is much easier for politicians to communicate through their own Facebook and Twitter accounts.

However, how much of these messages go much beyond those already supporting them or political tragics keeping up with the other side is a moot point – at least until they make a SMOG (Social Media Own Goal) when the message is likely to go far further than they’d like.

There is a downside to this easy communication though and that sometimes people ignore the people they’re with while concentrating on phones or other mobile devices.

As Einstein said:

I fear the day that technology will surpass our interaction the world will have a generation of idiots.


Time to get multi-lingual

June 23, 2013

A few years ago I was farewelling a young Argentinean visitor at Christchurch airport and waiting while he paid his departure tax.

Two young Asian women at the next window obviously didn’t understand English.

The teller was trying to explain they needed to show her their passports but they didn’t have a clue what she was asking of them.

I showed them my friend’s passport and the light went on.

I wondered then, why there weren’t signs in several languages to help travellers who didn’t speak English.

At last there will be.

Christchurch Airport has issued a media release saying it’s getting multi-lingual:

Christchurch Airport is ensuring Asian visitors feel welcome through installing signage in English, Chinese, Japanese and Korean – a first for any international airport in the country.

Christchurch Airport chief executive Jim Boult says the new signs are part of on-going work to make the airport environment even friendlier for international visitors.

“As a leader in the tourism industry, we’ve taken a proactive approach to rolling out multi-lingual signage through our terminal,” says Mr Boult.

“Providing Chinese, Japanese and Korean language versions of our signage throughout the airport reflects the changing nature of tourism to Christchurch and the South Island,” he says.

Mr Boult says the multi-lingual static and electronic displays are part of a broader strategy to encourage greater engagement with key visitor markets. Alongside business development initiatives for the Asia Pacific region, airport staff will soon learn a few basic phrases in other languages to help them communicate with a wider range of visitors.

“This work reflects where future growth in visitor volumes to this region will come from,” he says. “We’re seeing steadily returning numbers from both Japan and South Korea, while the Chinese market is growing significantly.” . . .

It’s a good initiative but why only Asian languages, why has it taken so long to realise the importance of communicating with people who don’t understand English and when will other airports get multi-lingual too?

If we’re serious about welcoming visitors from other countries we have to be prepared to communicate in other languages.


Nessie dead – internet to blame?

June 2, 2013

Have you come across recent sightings of the Loch Ness Monster?

Phillip Hoare hasn’t and is blaming the internet:

Each era creates their own monsters. . .

Whether these creatures were basking sharks, baleen whales, or unidentified new species, or whether they were what people wanted them to be, it is notable that they conformed to the culture and fashion of their times. Does that explain why the Loch Ness monster has been quiet of late? Have we, in our plethora of computer-generated images, become cynical about such monsters, now that we realise how easily we can create them ourselves? Arthur Conan Doyle believed in the Cottingley Fairies (and in ectoplasmic spirits) because the manipulative art of photography was still a mystery. . .

Now, thanks to YouTube – where there is a new cryptozoological sensation every day. . .  we’re attuned to duplicity. Our innocence is gone, along with an era that was trusting, gullible, even. It may be far-fetched to suggest that those 1930s monster-believers were contemporaneous with fellow Europeans who placed their faith in real-life monsters – the totalitarian leaders who offered darker and more dangerous fantasies – but it is undeniable that in the internet age, it is much more difficult to fool us. Or at least, that’s what we think.

I’m not sure that it is any less difficult to fool the gullible and the ability of computers to manipulate images makes it easier to do so.

But perhaps the speed at which the internet enables information to be transmitted means we’re likely to be fooled for a shorter time because it won’t be long before someone lets us know we can’t always trust that seeing is believing.


Bad old days are back

December 3, 2012

Remember when it used to take weeks to get a telephone connected?

Those bad old days are back.

Last month we applied for a connection for a new staff house on a dairy farm and were told someone would be out to do it a few days later.

He arrived when he was supposed to but took one look and said he couldn’t do the connection, someone else would have to do it.

We were told that someone would be out the following week.

That week came and went but no-one turned up.

My farmer phoned Telecom and was told someone would definitely be in touch the following morning.

No-one called so my farmer phoned again and was told that the job couldn’t be done. There wasn’t enough of whatever was needed at the exchange and it could be some months before there was.

Last week, about a week after that conversation, my farmer got a phone call, while we were driving to Christchurch, saying someone would be out to do something to a grey box in the middle of December.

He explained what we’d been told so far and asked if that meant that whatever was lacking at the exchange had been sorted.

I was in the car with him and could hear the conversation on the speaker.

We both got the impression she didn’t know anything about the exchange but before we could pursue the conversation, reception dropped.

As her number had been withheld we couldn’t call back and she  hasn’t tried calling us again.

That was five days ago and we still don’t know exactly when someone will be coming to do whatever needs to be done with the grey box nor whether if, when that’s done, the phone will be able to be connected.

Contrast that with the service from Sky.

Someone turned up at the designated time, put up a dish, connected the box and television – and it worked.

Connecting  a television and a telephone are different jobs but there’s no reason the service we’re getting from Telecom shouldn’t be up the standard as that we got from Sky.


Samsung Galaxy or iPhone?

November 7, 2012

My phone is due for an upgrade.

The options came down to a Samsung Galaxy or an iPhone.

The Galaxy was slightly smaller and  was highly recommended but the iPhone has better service outside main centres which is important for me.

Is opting for the iPhone the right decision or is there another model which is better than both of these?


Call me over cautious . . .

May 12, 2012

. . .  but there are a few things in this email which make me a wee bit suspicious:

Dear Mr. Ele Ludemann
it’s my pleasure to contact you, I hope to have a solid business working relationship with you, I got your esteemed contact detail from the directory. I have investor who is keen to invest in your country. I have just been approached by him regarding funds investment he told me in strict confidence to look for an honest and straight forward person NZ who could receive funds for investment placements.  The code of conduct bureau in his country as senior civil servant does not permit them to own or operate a foreign bank account so he will be obliged to use  someone like you  who  have a good investment platform and experience to handle the funds .due to the ongoing anti graft verification and declaration of asset of  servicing senior  civil servants and politician in his country the owner want the funds to be move to you as trustee /partner ASAP to avoid any trace  of the funds to him.

Do contact me ASAP so that we can proceed with perfecting documentation to move the funds to your possession.

Yours sincerely,

Danso Larbi

Note to would-be fraudsters:

It pays to get the recipient’s gender and your English right if you’re going to have the remotest chance of finding anyone stupid enough to do anything but delete such messages.


Slow post go telegrams return

August 4, 2011

New Zealand Post has announced the end international surface mail, saying three weeks is too long for the internet generation.

But the internet has facilitated the rebirth of telegrams.

Run by Madewell Enterprises, telegramstop.com enables you to compose a telegram online. They’ll then email you a copy and post the original to the recipient.

This might lead to a renaissance for wedding telegrams. We still have ours – the real ones and the odd joke one our best man slipped in.

They were replaced by faxes then emails and texts, but Telegram Stop’s product would make the message much more of a keep-sake than any of those.

The Sydney Morning Herald has more on the company which was founded by former MYOB owner Craig Winkler.


Com Com reduces mobile termination rates

May 5, 2011

Mobile calls and texts from a phone using one network to another using a different one will be cheaper:

The Commerce Commission today released its decision on mobile termination rates – the cost of carrying a text or call on another network. There will be significant reductions in the wholesale termination rates for mobile calls and text messages. As a result of competitive pressure, the Commission anticipates that these reductions in the wholesale rates will flow through to the prices paid by the 4.7 million mobile subscribers in New Zealand in the coming year.

Termination rates for calls will drop to less than 4 cents by 1 April 2012, with further reductions until 2014. Termination rates for text messages will drop to 0.06 cents from 6 May 2011.

“These changes are intended to address significant competition problems in the wholesale mobile market which have resulted in high retail prices – particularly for prepay customers – a low number of mobile calls and high rates of people switching networks, compared to other countries,” said Dr Ross Patterson, Telecommunications Commissioner.

Cheaper but not necessarily cheap enough:

“However, we continue to be concerned about the extent to which the price of calls and text messages between people on different networks are significantly higher than calls and text messages between people on the same network. These price differences create significant barriers for the new entry and growth of small mobile operators in the mobile market,” said Dr Patterson.

While the Commission expects reduction in wholesale termination rates for calls and text messages to resolve this problem, it will be monitoring this situation closely, including publishing monthly reports, and is prepared to move quickly to limit these price differences if required.

The graduated reduction in termination rates for calls will allow mobile providers time to adjust retail rates. In providing this graduated reduction, or glide path, the Commission has sought to balance the benefits for consumers in terms of lower prices, while allowing mobile providers time to adjust retail prices.

New Zealand mobile rates are regarded as high by international standards and that’s the main reason people here text more than those in other countires. 

 The Commerce Commission ruling will bring the costs down although it may not be enough to encourage people to call instead of texting.

I don’t mind texts for short, simple messages which require short, simple responses. But I’m not among those whose first preference for communication is this method.


Mobile misconnect

August 8, 2010

We were half way to Wanaka on Thursday afternoon when I realised I’d left my phone at home.

When we got back an hour ago I found it in my car where it must have been since I went to town on Wednesday.

The battery was flat but it’s now charged enough to tell me I missed six calls and had four messages.

Fortunately none of them was urgent and they were all from people who would have known to call my farmer when they couldn’t get hold of me if they really needed to.

I don’t remember when I got my first mobile but I do remember how it was before then. Toll calls were reserved for matters of great importance and anything else was conveyed by letter.

There are lots of advantages of relatively cheap mobile calls and texting but the weekend has proved that I can do without access to them  for a few days.


Snail mail matters in the country

June 10, 2010

Rural mail contractors don’t just bring us the post, they deliver newspapers, courier packages and junk mail too.

It wouldn’t matter if the junk mail came less often, or if it didn’t come at all. But losing Saturday delivery of the paper would be a nuisance and dropping mail deliveries to just three days a week would cause major inconvenience.

Prime Minister John Key and Communications Minister Steven Joyce are wary of the suggestion by New Zealand Post that Saturday mail deliveries might stop or deliveries drop to three days a week.

However, NZ Post is an SOE and the decision is up to its board, not politicians.

Increasing use of the internet and other forms of electronic communication is a major reason people are using snail mail less.

My mother used to write to extended family and friends frequently and when my brothers and I left home we got a letter once a week. It would be rare for anyone to send anything by post that often now when phone calls are much cheaper than they used to be and texts, email, Facebook and other electronic means of communication offer convenient alternatives to letters.

We still send and receive invoices and cheques through the mail but but not nearly as much as we used to because electronic invoicing and payments are replacing paper ones.

We get more give away papers than in the past too – which I see as a sign the rural economy is rebounding; but we get only one daily paper – the ODT – where we used to get The Press as well. Our mail doesn’t arrive until sometime after lunch and we found we’d caught up with most of the news from the radio or internet so were giving the second paper insufficient attention to justify the cost.

We still read the ODT properly but if it came only three times a week we might not which, if others followed suit, would hurt the paper and add to the list of items no longer being delivered by mail.

Alternatives to snail mail are serious competition for NZ Post but reducing service will make it worse.

NZ Post should be working on ways to encourage greater use of its delivery service rather than throwing in the towel and hastening its demise.


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