Communication vs. Informing (Video)

(This is a crosspost from vinJones.com)

There are somethings in life we just accept although we know they are wrong. Like fruitcake during the Christmas holiday. No one really eats it, yet it is still given as a gift. Like a stop sign on a deserted road at 2am. Did you really make a full and complete stop?

And corporate communications – they really aren’t communicating. Rather, they are informing. Communication takes two parties and an exchange of information and an acknowledgement that the message was received and understood. Formal communications within organizations are anything but communications. Rather, they inform. They send out emails. Put up posters. Maybe a sign in the cafeteria or lunch room. These are examples of one-way communication – wait, can there be such a thing or is it an oxymoron? One-way communication is informing.

But we really can’t change the name to “Corporate Informing,” can we?

So how do we have true communication within an organization? How do we make sure people understand? I have heard executives lament the fact that their latest project is not being understood. ”It is all over the place. Emails, posters, table tents, small signs in the restrooms. How can they miss it?!”

So how do we resolve this? Here is a suggestion. Whenever we talk about communicating to our employees, replace the word “communicate” with “converse.” This changes everything – it also brings up some more challenges. Some are real (like needing the resources) and some are only imagined (being fearful of discussing sensitive topics). Suddenly, “Communication” takes on a whole new meaning.

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Profile Photo Andrew Krzmarzick

Love it…imagine turning that email about raising insurance premiums by 15% or cutting 15% of the workforce into a dialogue well in advance of the “announcement.” You still need to explain to employees why, but then start asking them – how can we make this transition easier for you? One part inform, one part converse.

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Profile Photo Jack Shaw

Have to admit, government does a lot of telling, and little asking that really matters. Mostly it seems higher headquarters is looking for information to create a report about–again telling with little regard to the significance it might have to us. Communication is two-way. It can be a conversation, but that is often too informal for government. It always amazed me how much emphasis was placed on numbers, but I never saw one report of the significance of those numbers. No “F” or “T” tests to check for validity and significance. Our numbers may have no real connection to what we want to say about them: we are doing a good job and making progress.

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Profile Photo Michael McCarthy, APR

Very good video. Just remember when you have a “conversation”, it works a lot better if it is before the actual decision.

We have had success with employee programs when we pick a “champion” in each office to go back and spread the word and encourage participation. The message is coming from someone they trust, someone they can talk to about it.

When we switched to Google Apps, we not only had office “Google Guides” to prepare everyone for the transition, but we had people walking the hallways the day of the transition checking with everyone person to make sure they were able to log in and had their mail.

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Profile Photo sue.keirnan

Or to quote George Bernard Shaw, “the single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” I am having a head banger of a time trying to get this concept across to leaders because they think emails and bulletins tick the communication box.

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Profile Photo Kevin D. Jones

Thanks for the comments!

@Michael – I think a key is “walking the hallways” – not so much that it is the hallways that matters, but the one-on-one interaction. We miss that a lot when we rely on shotgun approaches like email.

@Andrew, I agree. Not everything has to be “converse,” but unfortunately right now too much is “inform.” We need to move over the appropriate information to converse.

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