For many years we have prepared communication plans based neatly on who we need to speak to and what we need to tell them. In short, this is a very linear model of communication between A and B and if we are lucky it may be a two way conversation.
Communication has been based around defining groups and using various methods to identify how they want to receive information and communication. There are those wanting face-to-face communication, those who want the media to be their source of knowledge and the categorisation goes on and on. It is all very traditional and based around relationships and control particularly control of information.
I am now starting to challenge those traditional things. I had an interesting conversation with a colleague who knows about call centres. He was explaining to me that where once we had channel strategies there was now a growing acceptance from businesses that this was being replaced with a chaotic situation. It was no longer about pushing people to use the best methods of contact that suited the company. Instead, it was about recognising that people were demanding contact in the way they wanted, whether that was call centre, face-to-face or through social media.
The explanation got me thinking about those traditional communication strategies based around a clear process of control. Perhaps they now need to be rethought so that they are about managing channels and those are the channels that people are choosing themselves. In developing communication strategies we need to accept people will get information from a range of channels and we have to accept and identify how we will manage the situation. We can’t hide from social media, or the media, or face-to-face communication they are all elements of what we are working with.
So the next question is are communication professionals and the industry itself ready and able to take on this new challenge? Do we have the right structures? Do we have the staff with the right outlook and training? One thing Is clear we have to be willing to take a new and fresh look at what communication is.