Consistent communication unlocks the door to new discoveries

In one of the recent movies on the OTT platform, I was transfixed to see that the solution to souring relationships lay in understanding the moods of the other person, which became the foundation for developing a new App. That we now have to depend on technology to help us communicate with our near and dear ones is a telling sign of the times we live in.

Have we really forgotten how to communicate and converse? Generations ago, families insisted on having at least one meal together. While for some meal times were meant to be quiet gatherings, for others, it was an occasion to talk of how the day had passed by…in essence, it was an opportunity to renew familial bonds and strengthen relationships, food being the underlying leveler.

When the pandemic induced lockdowns curtailed face-to-face interactions, people took the support of technology to stay in touch and reach out to their stakeholders, friends, families and colleagues. Over a period of time, the human mind being most adaptable to change, adjusted itself to this new equation and soon almost everyone was on to Zoom or Gmeet or Microsoft Teams…

The success of the PR and communications business depends on the way we communicate. The way we narrate our stories. The way we understand the pulse of our stakeholders. Yet, many of us make the classic mistake of shaping our narration over what we wish to say rather than find out what the audience wishes to hear.

Relevant and strong messaging strikes a chord when it resonates with the reader and your audience. How do you then find out what the audience is looking for? Not every organisation does an annual/regular stakeholder voice dipstick survey. For many, the tried and tested method remains being in touch and meeting with our customers and/or beneficiaries.

The newbies

In every new job that I picked up associated with this industry, there was this emphasis on getting to know the audience and the stakeholder. But it was also mired in the classic chicken-or-egg story. Do I first understand my new organisation better or do I go out and meet the stakeholder and acknowledge my learning curve, at the same time extending the hand of collaboration…?

There are no right or wrong answers here. In the end, I followed my instincts and mixed and matched…whenever there was an opportunity to meet a new stakeholder, I would jump in, irrespective of my being a novice in my organisation. It never failed me. Being authentic became my key differentiator and paved the way to many great interactions.

The mapping

With time, one of course outlined stakeholder maps and tried to understand the nuances of the person through her/his public image…While I do not discount the merits of this exercise, my experience has been that keeping an open mind and embracing diversity of thoughts and differences in opinions works far better than any mapping exercise. A stakeholder mapping exercise may make you lean more towards your allies. However, meeting people who are on the other side of the spectrum and communicating with them can lead to fresh insights. When we expand our conversations and our mind to accept all points of view, we can actually understand our stakeholders better and shape our messaging accordingly.

The consistency

In my career journey I have traversed many different industries and done varied job roles. But I always made it a point to stay in touch with my external stakeholders. Human beings love to talk and share their stories. We all love to be heard and listened to. Once you have built a relationship, be in touch even if you are now in a different sector. Keep a long-term view on your stakeholder relationships. The world is round and small – someday, sometime, paths tend to cross once again.

As offices open up and restrictions ease, it is a great opportunity to consolidate our relationships and touch base with our stakeholders in person. Stay on course with your consistent communication and your audience – it is a sure way of discovering new stories and new narration points.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Sarita Bahl
Country Group Head CSR at Bayer - South Asia
Sarita Bahl leads the Corporate Social Responsibility function for Bayer South Asia and is also the Director – Bayer Prayas Association. Prior to this, she successfully oversaw the communications and public affairs function for Bayer South Asia. Over her three decades of professional experience, Sarita has held multiple roles across diverse industries, public sector, trade associations, MNCs and the Not-for-profit sector. An alumnus of Tata Institute of Social Science and the Swedish Institute of Management Program, Sarita specializes in stakeholder engagement, sustainability and communications. She is passionate about animals (is mother to a female cat), books and movies.

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