A reader commented on my last week’s column that it would have been good if I had touched upon Knowledge management in PR and Communications a little more in detail. I told him the subject merits a column by itself. It is too vast and too deep to be clubbed with anything else.
I was discussing the topic with a few fellow professionals asking them what comes to their mind when they hear knowledge management in our domain. One among them pointed out that several agencies and companies have smart document management systems to capture and manage knowledge. Few other points too poured in. Suddenly, another professional jumped in and remarked harnessing knowledge using a document management system is like a chatbot. It helps you keep your head above the water. But not necessarily helps you to stay relevant and smarter.
Insight and foresight
Discussing an event hosted on behalf of their client, I have come across agencies often saying in hindsight, this could have been done better or done this way. It is ex post facto. However, in most instances, it is at best discussed and forgotten. Lesson learnt are seldom carried forward consistently. Reasons for that are multiple but mainly due to people movements on both agency and client-side.
The hand over templates and documents people use for knowledge transfer should have the three-step process of, what do I know, who needs to know it and why they should know it. It should encompass all the insight gathered about the client, media and the task executed. It should recognise what doesn’t work or hasn’t worked in the past. Recording unsuccessful or failed strategies is as equally significant as recording a successful strategy. These are things beyond the document management system of storing briefing documents, press releases, invites etc. The more insightful the knowledge capturing is, the better will be the foresight. Most documents capture all the Ws of what, why, where and so on. It also captures how albeit operationally. It misses capturing insights that people mostly relay over conversations and not on documents.
In our experience, we have often seen great ideas coming from most unexpected sources or places. And from sources who bring an outside perspective. Many times, a young executive or an intern shoots off an idea that may be brilliant. However, in some cases, it may need adaptation or tweaking to suit a client or a situation. How does one harness such creative talent? Does it help to have a culture of transparency and openness not just in an agency but with clients also? It requires 3C approach of continuous and consistent collaboration.
We need to break away from silo thinking to encourage collaboration. Tools and methods of knowledge management can only go that far and can only guarantee that much. The culture of sharing needs to be encouraged and built meticulously.
Telling our own stories to our own folks in a manner that highlights insights with an intent to develop foresight goes a long way in building a smart knowledge organization. It helps in allaying a client’s worst nightmare of capability and competency loss when a good team member leaves an agency. It no longer becomes an extensive exploratory phase of finding that grove or balance again.
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