Every once in a while it hits me. More than ever, there is huge momentum to communicate. Executives, bloggers, marketing executives, pundits…and they want to communicate internally, with consumers, with and through media outlets, to influentials…you name it. This malady is particularly visible in employee communication efforts, where adherence to the mantra that you can’t communicate too much in times of crisis has fostered a blizzard of activity. I suppose this is a good instinct, and it certainly bodes well for those of us working in communications across all these audiences. But I’m concerned that besides a great desire to communicate, there is much less clarity as to purpose. We need to go back to the first and most important question in communication – why?
In the majority of cases where there is demand to get out message out, raise our brand profile or become part of the conversation, I detect little beyond an inexplicable and fierce appetite for action. Let’sstart a blog. Shouldn’t we put out a press release? Can you help us promote this with employees? But if you scratch the surface it’s often unclear exactly what these well intentioned folks want to achieve beyond vague aspirations of visibility or being able to check off “communications” on their project roadmap. Are you trying to sell more product? Is this designed merely to inform or drive substantive changes in behavior? Who is the target audience? In short…why are you doing this? In some cases – when there is no clear imperative or desired outcome – the communication plans should be shelved altogether.
Given this context, one of the most useful roles communication professionals can play with clients and peers is due diligence – going through a logical planning process to confirm objectives, audiences and communication opportunities. Sounds very prosaic, but without that simple checklist the communication effort will likely do little more than add to the ambient noise. It’s time we add “confirm rationale” as first item on the planning checklist for PR activities.