“We’ve communicated enough” means you’re not communicating at all

November 9, 2010 at 10:23 pm

At what point does an organization get to say it has “communicated enough?”

I sat in a meeting last night of an organization of which I’m a new trustee. After a member came before us and asked for more transparency, I asked how we communicated the proceedings of our board meetings. Members were shocked that anyone would want to do that. Further questions about communicating with members were met by exasperation.

Any member can come before this group to tell us what’s on their mind, one member said. We tell them what’s going on through the newsletter, said another. Yes, said a third, and we have the Web site and we do email blasts.

“We communicate enough,” declared one to nods of affirmation around the table. “If members don’t know what’s going on, shame on them!”

How many organizations and executives feel that way? We continue to see that people demand that the organizations that serve them be more engaged and responsive to them. And we continue to see executives and leader boards regard silence and indifference as endorsement.

I would argue that if the directors of the organization I spoke of were managers of a company, and engagement was being measured by sales, the whole board would be rightfully fired.

The new management team that replaced them would not accept the argument that “we’ve communicated enough.” If people aren’t responding to newsletters, Web sites and emails, then those newsletters, Web sites and emails clearly aren’t communicating. This is one of those areas where good, old-fashioned communications strategy is still important. Yes, that group is using social media, but social media is just a tool, like the newsletter. Perhaps they’re the wrong tools. Or perhaps they’re not being used right.

The new board would try new tactics until they started making sales – in this case, engaging in conversation with customers, or more accurately, members.

Carrying on conversations, mining them for information and counseling executives how to react is what public relations people do. With that information, public relations can people can improve an organization’s reputation and standing in whatever community it exists. That results in sales, support, membership…whatever that organization needs.  It’s not about any kind of specific tactic, it’s about achieving that conversation and from it, better understanding of the organization’s place and where it needs to go to achieve its goals. And that, you’ll notice, has nothing to do with social media.

The moment an executive – or a member of leadership board – says they’ve communicated enough and it’s the target audience’s fault for not participating, it’s the beginning of the end.

It seems to me that no organization that wishes to grow and thrive can ever say it’s communicated enough. Even after it’s acheived full engagement, there are new stories to tell and new concerns to hear about and respond to. Making leaders understand that is also seems to be a never-ending task.


Entry filed under: Dealing with social media, Organizational communications, reputation. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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