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Communication Management; what are you saying?

A recent business survey found that Communication Management is still undervalued by most organisations, to their peril. While it would be so easy to criticise such behaviour, reality reflects that this is a challenging area in which to be victorious.

Again, I have to state (and remind myself as well) that this is a blog, not a multi-session course, so naturally, I can only hope to cover some of the basics.

This blog came out of a question I was asked by a bright young executive that I had begun providing management mentoring to. It wasn’t meant to be a session on communication management. She was expressing a degree of frustration regarding the way certain team members were speaking to external contractors; her perception was that there was harshness and disrespect shown when dealing with cleaners, couriers, maintenance providers, etc. that reflected poorly on her organisation. It led to an interesting conversation where I did that which I regularly do; I asked several topic-related questions that stretched her thinking, challenged her current understanding, and required her to qualify her opinions.

Communication Management

Let me provide some premise for the rest of this blog by stating my opinion regarding communication management.

Firstly, let’s remind ourselves about the specifics of communication. Communication covers much, including the following:

  • Words spoken
  • Words written
  • The tone with which words are spoken or written
  • The context within which words are spoken or written
  • The receptiveness of the receiver
  • What is understood by the receiver
  • The atmosphere/environment within which words are spoken or written
  • The demeanour/body language of the person speaking
  • Images; actual or perceived
  • Reactions
  • Practises
  • Policies
  • Decorations
  • Signage
  • Tolerance levels
  • Generosity levels
  • Sensitivity levels
  • Integrity issues

For time’s sake, I’ll stop listing more items of communication (for instance, consider corporate symbols). The point is clear; communication is broad and far-reaching. Communication management is doing whatever it takes to manage the above list.

Communication management is not just contemporary jargon, not some postmodernist or corporate elitist terminology; it is simply a focused and disciplined approach to managing the outcomes of what is communicated within and from an organisation.

Communication management is considerably different from Public Relations (PR) while being inherently linked to PR; the former has an absolute effect on the latter. PR focuses on what impacts the public; an organisation’s customers/clients, the overall marketplace, a local community and media. Communication management is a holistic method of dealing with an organisation’s communications.

There is regular debate in both academia and corporate life regarding culture and communication; which drives the other? Some suggest that communication drives the culture. What are your thoughts? For me, it is that communication reflects culture.

Consequently, this forms my foundational views and approach to communication management; it must be birthed from vision and strategy, it must come from the top. CEOs and senior management can not communicate one way and expect others to communicate differently. Part of any organisation’s thorough strategic plan should include a detailed word picture of the desired culture. Subsequently, this will form the direction of, and implementation of, communication policy. And it is this communication policy that is foundational to communication management; it’s both the beginning point and a continual reference point.

<H3>Communication Management solutions</H3>

So where to from here? The approach to this is dependant on numerous factors, including:

  1. Size; are you a corporate or an SME?
  2. Are you planning a start-up, recently established or have a history?
  3. Considering, in the process of, or just completed a merger?
  4. Do you already have a defined and distributed communication policy?
  5. Do you have a current communication challenge?
  6. Are you empowered to facilitate communication management?

Larger corporations will already have a certain structure in place to handle communication management. Internally, the common and sensible approach is to periodically review policy and monitoring practices.

Russell’s Tip: Internal issues can often be identified through the HR department’s performance reviews; individuals regularly raise communication complaints.

Additionally, communication management staff members should schedule regular meetings with those responsible for PR, marketing and legal areas.

SMEs don’t have separate departments, so the approach and ownership of communication management are different to the corporate model, but the intent should be identical.

In conclusion, this has been a minimalistic covering of such a significant topic and its potential results, but I hope it has been of interest and some degree of help to you.

Question: Do you have a good example of communication management that has worked well, or poorly? If so, please share it with us.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me. Alternatively, I always appreciate constructive comments on communication management.