Communicate to Connect

Communication is of course important to the success of many activities.  Not least the larger scale projects which will have their own communications plan, and may even be driven by a stakeholder plan. 

However, if communication is important, it’s connection that’s paramount.  It’s that difference between hearing (communicating) and listening (connecting).   If hearing is detecting sound , then listening is understanding and interpreting that sound.

Lots of communication planning and development gets built around the physical and tangible tools – the media, the mechanisms.  “We need a web site” or “we need a newsletter” or “we need a {blank}”.  That’s quite a practical way to get started, but needs some mitigation.  The risk is the mechanism becomes end in itself rather than a means to an end.   

Those mechanisms are the simply the things that join a message with people.   After all people might well communicate via a mechanism, but will connect with a message.   While we can generalise about groups of people using phraseology like “stakeholder segments”, they are individual people.  So perhaps we tend to think about communicating with impersonal stakeholder groups, rather than actually connecting with real people, in fact real persons.  Think less 'group of people', more collection of individuals.  So that's communication with groups to connect with individuals. So a new term perhaps... 'communect'... communication that connects.

The real issue with starting with the mechanism is that this is a uni-dimensional approach to a (typically) multi-dimensional situation.  We have (1) message(s) to share, (2) mechanisms to communicate those messages, and (3) the people with whom to connect.   While that mechanism centric approach can work well enough with one message for one group of people, it’s not such a sensible starting point for multiple messages or multiple stakeholders, and even more tricky for multiple messages and multiple stakeholders.

So the mechanism is simply the means to connect messages to people. Here’s a take on that which, which can  help identify, clarify and structure those multi-dimensional situations.  So a framework for planning project comms....

That message might simply be awareness raising, information giving, or about brand presence, through to a stronger sense of engagement.  That said this tends towards the traditional ‘broadcast’ approach rather then more two way engagement, but there’s still a place for that, and a structured approach to managing it.  After all engagement is built on communication and connection.