The word knowing, draws a case in point to the very nature of the practice of corporate and largely crisis communication. True to its meaning of “showing or suggesting that one has knowledge or awareness that is known to only a few people” is the basis of the task and if I may so say the “art” of communication management. In stark contrast is the commonly known phrase of “there is no knowing”, which suggests the very absence of knowledge or awareness. In any scenario either of crisis or normal communication lies the delivery of knowledge, within the context of those delivering the information and those receiving information. It is in this delivery that there is a transformation of information to knowledge and forms the basis of the context of the nature of communication.
On the outset the practice of corporate communication is a very special instance of knowledge, comprehending and communication of this knowledge in general can provide key insights into the art of knowledge communication. Various stakeholders draw from this knowledge and make informed decisions and the onus of bolstering the effectiveness of the communication lies on the practice of corporate communication. It is vitally important to understand that varied sources of information challenges the correctness of the message that is being sent out and has an enormous impact on the stakeholders.
As the function of corporate communication adds value to the entire structure, both internally and externally it is important to affirm and largely speaking set the context to the message. This brings to an important aspect of what is termed as the “setting the agenda”. In the everyday corporate context, the act of communication and hence imparting knowledge can be categorised into three variants –
- Communication for a reason
- Communication for a season, and
- communication for lifetime.
The influence of these three types of communication directs attention to specific aspects as may be required.
As is the focus of X-Axis, the parallels will be drawn to crisis management.
A reason can be used in the context of a communication of the present happenstance or in context to the very immediate circumstance, an impending or current crisis.
A season context is the timeframe for that communication to be in place over a period of time or the aftermath of a crisis.
Lastly, drawing from the previous article, communication in terms of lessons learnt from the crisis to help build back better is the communication for a lifetime.
There is an important term that must be introduced here – salience. salience is the quality of being particularly noticeable or important. For example a message notification on your phone. In the context of crisis communication there exists a prominence and perceived importance of specific messages in the communication being sent out. Agenda in the context of “setting the agenda” is a plan of things to be done or problems to be addressed.
Imagine that you are asked this question “What is the most important problem that we face today?” Now, look at the scenarios, within the context of crisis communication, and the three variants above. You will see that there are different connotations to the message that stand out, the salience of the message varies. This is the vital aspect of crisis communication – to transfer the salience within the order of the agenda.
The “setting the agenda” role of the communication encompasses attitudes, opinions, and observable behaviour. These attributes are magnified in times of crisis. While it is important to distinguish attitudes and opinions, particular emphasis must be laid primarily to address the strength of opinion, which then defines if the opinion even logically exists. Once the strength of opinion is addressed crisis communication can lead to a measured direction of change to “build back better”. The more focussed the “communication for a reason”, the greater the salience of the message and the higher likelihood of attitudinal change, which can be fortified with long term communication.
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