Thursday, June 05, 2008

All we (should) do is talk-talk

There's a poll on the CiB website at the moment asking: 'what's the most effective form of business communication?'

At the time of writing, more than 70% of respondents are saying face to face, with just 3.5% favouring the intranet and just 1.2% selecting email.

Yet why are most businesses so obsessed with generating intranet content and, worse still, pumping out information masquerading as communication by email?

Since I first started in corporate comms two decades ago, the wisdom has been that people prefer to receive key information from their managers and to have the opportunity to discuss it with their peers.
But in this supposedly time-poor age, we're not supposed to have the time capacity to down tools and talk about what really matters. Instead, the emphasis is back to top-down - shifting information from the centre quickly and putting the onus on employees to seek it out, understand it and act on it. But the assumption that something is read and understood by the right people just because it has been sent is particularly crass.

How many emails do people receive every day? Far too many to act on. And if employees diligently took the time to read everything sent their way, or worse still, surfed the company intranet for new news all the time, wouldn't the time lost be longer than necessary for a quick team meeting or manager chat where the message could be tailored to the specific needs of that particular audience?
Perhaps we've just become lazy and timid as communicators, preferring to operate in our comfort zones where it's easy to pump out content without having to face the consequences of applying that content to the needs of our different audiences. We're not making our managers work hard enough or challenging our leaders to be visible embodiments of the business.

There's a danger that we're talking a great game, and delivering something completely different.

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