Context is King

As the future King of England is wed, so it's actually the context of the wedding which is the big attraction.  After all the marriage, a personal commitment between two people, is legally just the same as any other (well actually multiple marriage registers rather than just one).  It's all the context that provides the whole picture....royalty, romance, and hence the ensuing super spectacle.

And so it is that context is king in any effective analysis and interpretation, whether strategic or operational.  Here's a couple of examples at the other extreme...

The "12 inch pizza"  from the supermarket looked a little small, and on measuring not only was it smaller than it's backing, but the backing itself was not the full 12" (being only 30cm wide, rather than the expected 30.5cm).  So we're missing at least 0.5cm of pizza!

If we were missing that 0.5cm from the middle of the pizza that that's only 0.2 squared centimetres.  But from the edge of the pizza, that's missing all the way round, that's a different story....a whole 24 missing, 800 times more pizza than if it was missing from the middle...

Another simple example of the importance of context...In need of a garage or loft conversion, then how about some recommendations...some quotes, proudly displayed on the side of a van....

"The best builder I have ever used".

Well if it's the first builder I have ever used then.... that also makes it the worst builder I have ever used.

"Standard of finish was beyond my expectation".  

Well if the expectation was very poor, the standard of finish could be poor, and this would still hold true.

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.