The Communication Gap

Article excerpt

The most recent and painful example has been our love affair with the computer, which has allowed us to become even more craft oriented than we formerly were. That, despite all of the communication research which says so clearly that people infinitely prefer face-to-face communication with their supervisors and their executives over any media, including print and video.

We in the communication profession have contributed to a communication gap that threatens our very existence.

How? By refusing to see communication as an unending process. By not challenging the simple belief that the production of a newsletter means that the organization's leadership is fulfilling its responsibility. By declining to learn how to become communication strategists who orchestrate clear issues and messages into and through effective channels.

The result is that the leaders who pay the bills see us for what we have chosen to become - writers, editors and producers - and they leave us out when the really important communication need presents itself.

Move from technicians to strategists

Too few of us are perceived in our own companies as key players when the leadership needs to formulate a quality strategy, or when a major change of disruptive proportions is in the works, or when the organization is struggling to become more competitive in its marketplace.

The November issue of Communication World, I thought, expressed it well. In an interview, IABC Chairman Les Potter, ABC, was asked what changes he would most like to see happen in the profession. His answer was emphatic. (Correctly, I think) he said he'd like to see more organizations use communication as the strategic management resource it is. He then added his belief that that would depend on our ability to rethink the role of communication and develop the strategic management counseling and research expertise we need.

In that same issue, Mark Westaby, a consultant in the U.K., reported a study of 1,000 British companies. His main conclusion was: "Although companies increasingly recognize the value of an integrated and consistent approach to communication, it is clear that few have managed to put this into practice in any measurable fashion." The reasons he cites are that communication is seldom represented at the most senior management level and thus is not considered during the strategic planning process, as well as the fragmentation of the function across several different departments or divisions, making strategic communication virtually impossible."

To put it mildly, I think that both Potter and Westaby see a gap of major proportions.

That very same communication gap was cited in a recent study designed by William M. Mercer, Inc. to determine the thinking of a blue ribbon panel of U.S. communication and human resource experts. Representing 40 leading U. …