The 7Cs of communication: Fast, effective ways to speak like a pro

7Cs of communication
Following the 7Cs of communication could help you become a better speaker and writer. Source: AFP

Stage fright, fear of public speaking, presentation anxiety — most of us freeze when all eyes and ears are on us. In fact, it’s said three out of four people have a phobia of talking in public.

It’s the no. 1 fear, with death coming in second. Wouldn’t it be great if there’s a step-by-step guide to help us become more skilled, clear and effective speakers?

Enter the 7Cs of communication.

7Cs of communication

Being clear in your speech ensures you won’t be left in silence when making a joke. Source: AFP

What are the 7Cs of communication and why are they important in your work?

It’s a list of principles you can follow to make sure you’re communicating effectively. Your message doesn’t get lost.

Instead, it’s heard, understood and impactful — even when you’re conveying some of the hardest things to say, like breaking up or laying off someone.

And if you’re aiming for that promotion or pay bump, the 7Cs of communication becomes even more important.

Senior roles often require someone who can communicate the needs, expectations and insights of teams.

Perhaps most importantly, it helps you build stronger relationships. Imagine asking for a favour for a colleague to help you out while you deal with a family emergency.

You’ll need to show respect and empathy as you tell them they need to work an extra two hours to cover for you. It’s an art — and while there’s no 100% guarantee it’ll work, the 7Cs of communication can make your interactions more positive and productive. 

7Cs of communication

The 7Cs of communication ensure that your message is understood by your audience. Source: AFP

Who invented the 7Cs of communication?

Scott M. Cutlip and Allen H. Center are credited as the minds behind the 7Cs of Communication. In 1952, they co-wrote the first edition of “Effective Public Relations

Cutlip was a pioneer in public relations education and began his career in 1941 with the West Virginia State Road Commission. He then pursued his master’s at the University of Wisconsin, where he continued to study journalism and political science. After graduating, he joined the faculty at the University of Wisconsin, where he taught news editing and introduced the study of public relations.

Center, on the other hand, began his media career during World War when he edited the daily newspaper for the 13th Air Force Fighter Command Headquarters. After the war, he went on to join companies like Parker Pen, Motorola and Leo Burnett. Once he retired, he decided to take on a part-time professor role at San Diego State University.

The 7Cs of communication to become a good speaker and writer

7Cs of communication

Ensuring your speech is clear will help your audience avoid any confusion. Source: AFP

1. Clear 

The first “C” in the 7Cs of communication is being “clear.” When you’re clear, it means that your audience easily understands your message, leaving no room for confusion or misinterpretation.

When writing a research paper and your thesis statement is vague and unclear, this will lead to the reader having trouble grasping the core of your argument.

Being clear is also important for speaking. When you give a presentation, being clear means organising your ideas logically and expressing them in a straightforward manner.

Instead of rambling or using complex words, you deliver your message in a way that people can easily understand. Be clear about the goal of your message and the purpose of the message. 

Compare the two sentences below:

  • “Today I would like to launch the new iPhone 15 which has computational photography, A16 Bionic chip with 5-core GPU, custom dual ion-exchange process for the glass, and an aerospace-grade aluminium enclosure.”
  • “Today I’m launching the new iPhone that takes super-high resolution photos, has smooth performance, lasts long and will never crack under pressure.”

Marcus Ryu, the C.E.O. of Guidewire Software has another tip: think of your audience as really dumb people.

“I’ve come to realise that no matter how smart the people are you’re communicating to, the more of them there are, the dumber the collective gets,” Ryu told The New York Times.

“And so you could have a room full of Einsteins, but if there are 200 or 300 of them, then you still have to talk to them like they’re just average people. As the audience gets bigger and bigger, your message has to get simpler and simpler, and the bullet-point list has to be shorter and shorter.”

2. Concise 

The second on the list of the 7Cs of communication is “Concise.”

This means conveying your message using as few words as possible without excluding the essential information. 

Imagine you’re writing an essay for a class assignment, and you use long sentences. This can make your writing difficult to follow, and the reader might lose track of your main point.

However, if you practise conciseness by expressing your ideas in as few words as possible, your writing becomes more focused and impactful, improving the overall quality of your work.

When speaking, being concise means getting to the point quickly.

When writing or speaking, ask yourself:

Are there any adjectives or “filler words” that you can delete? You can often remove words such as “for instance,” “you see,” “definitely,” “kind of,” “literally,” “basically,” or “I mean.”

7Cs of communication

Concreteness is an aspect of communication that means being specific, definite, and vivid rather than vague and general. Source: AFP

3. Concrete 

The third on this list of 7Cs of communication is “Concrete.” Now this takes a bit of visualising.

Imagine a block of stone and how it feels against your hands. It feels solid.

To make your communication concrete, you have to make your sentences solid. It’s not airy or sloppy.

For example, when you’re setting up a meeting, you’re not saying “It would be great, but we’re totally fluid on this, that we meet around 5ish or 6ish? Maybe some of us can book one of the rooms on the top floors?”

Anyone listening to that does not know the exact time, place and reason for the meeting — and you’ll likely have no one turning up.

Try saying “Let’s meet at 5pm at Meeting Room A on Level 6 to discuss budgets.”

7Cs of communication

It’s essential that both the factual information and the language and grammar you use are correct.  Source: AFP

4. Correct 

If you want to become a good speaker and writer, being “correct” is one of the essential 7Cs of communication you should adopt. 

And that means being correct in the factual information and the language and grammar you use.

 When writing an email or a research paper, neglecting correctness and making grammatical mistakes or spelling errors could undermine your credibility and the quality of your research.

But when your writing is correct, it shows your commitment to academic excellence, ensuring that your message is delivered without mistakes.

Pro tips:

  • Install Grammarly and other writing extensions on GDoc — these are great for spotting grammar and spelling mistakes, even on the free versions
  • Always cross-check facts and figures with a few sites. Government sites are mostly reliable, as are top news organisations like The Guardian, The New York Times and The Economist.

5. Coherent 

The fifth of the 7 Cs of communication is being “coherent.” If your writing or speech is not coherent, it will not be effective. 

When your communication is coherent, it’s logical. All points are connected and relevant to the main topic, and the tone and flow of the text are consistent.

When your ideas flow smoothly and logically, it means your writing and communication are coherent. Imagine you’re writing an essay for an assignment, and your paragraphs jump from one topic to another without any clear connection. That’s incoherent.

Practising coherence can also improve your speech. During a presentation, it means structuring your speech so that your points transition naturally from one to the next. 

For example, when presenting at work, you start by clearly stating the goals and then outlining the steps to achieve them one by one. This could sound like, “Let’s begin by discussing our project’s objectives. First, we aim to increase customer engagement by 20% in the next quarter.”

It is important to use clear language and organise your information logically, making it easy for everyone to follow. Each point flows naturally into the next, creating a cohesive and easy-to-understand presentation.

You could break it down as such: “To ensure clarity, let’s break down our timeline into phases. Phase one involves market research and competitor analysis, followed by the development of our campaign in phase two.”

This will help your team stay on track and ensure everyone understands what is going on.

7Cs of communication

Following the 7Cs of communication means people will understand what you are saying as your message is clear, concise, and effective. Source: AFP

6. Complete 

The sixth “C” in the 7Cs of communication is “complete”. When your communication is “complete,” it shows that your message includes all the necessary information and context. 

Imagine you’re writing a lab report for a science class, and you forget to include the methodology or the results section. Your lecturer may struggle to understand your experiment’s process and outcomes.

However, when your communication is complete, you ensure that your writing covers all the essential components, allowing your audience to understand your work fully. 

When delivering a message, it’s important to give your audience all of the information they need to follow your line of reasoning and understand where you are coming from. 

This is as simple as asking if your audience understands you and if they have any questions.

Complete communication is about leaving no questions unanswered and ensuring that your audience understands your message comprehensively and takes action if needed.

7. Courteous 

“Courteous” is a crucial component in the 7Cs of communication.

To increase the effectiveness of your communication, you could try being “courteous”. Your message should be friendly, professional, considerate, respectful, open and honest.

There are no hidden insults or passive-aggressive tones. When speaking or writing, you should think about your message from the recipient’s point of view. 

Here are some examples:

  • “I don’t have time to listen to your ideas. We’re going to do it my way.” vs “I appreciate your input. Let’s discuss your ideas and see if we can find a solution that works for everyone.”
  • “Why can’t you ever meet deadlines? You’re so slow.” vs “I noticed we’ve had some challenges with meeting deadlines. How can we work together to improve our efficiency?”
  • “Someone left a mess in the pantry. It’s so annoying.” vs “I noticed there’s a bit of a mess in the pantry. Would you mind cleaning it up when you get the chance? Thanks for your help!”