On Communication

I had the amazing pleasure this week of being invited to what I’m calling a “secret squirrel” meeting. It was a federal government advisory committee that was interested in learning more about how social media is affecting emergencies. The “secret squirrel” bit is because they’ve asked us not to talk about it.

So I’m not.

Except for this. Because it’s too perfect.

One of the Committee members, during one of the discussions that day, said this:

We have all of this stuff we think you should know; but that’s the illusion of communication.

Basically, communication is NOT me telling you something. It’s a process that encompasses many steps, including me telling you something. It’s akin to saying golf is just putting the ball in the hole, or fishing is putting a fish on your hook. It’s slightly more complicated than that.

The quote brought to mind a blog post I’ve been meaning to pass along by Dave Fleet. The key quote from that post?

Everyone has their own background and context that they overlay on top of what they hear. It’s our jobs as communicators to consider that perspective and to adjust the way we communicate accordingly. If we do, we stand a better chance of persuading them to agree with our point of view.

“Persuading them to agree with our point of view.” Isn’t that what we as emergency risk communicators are trying to do? Convince people of a danger and then convince them to take the course of action we’ve recommended as protection? Why hamstring your efforts by not ensuring that the entire communications process has taken place and instead only focusing on one of the steps?

(Quick reminder)
Communications Theory

That “Signal” part above? I know all of our funders want to make sure that part is in our plans, but don’t ever forget that it’s just one TINY part of a much larger process. A process that can ensure success if done fully.