Prepare for the technology, but don’t let it drive your communication strategy. We present ten points to consider before engaging in new media.
LEADER’S TOOLBOX: Communication for Leaders
Successful use of technology-mediated communication tools such as online collaborative projects, social networks, message platforms and online video and video sharing platforms can help organizations stand out in the minds of their stakeholders.
They not only enable organizations to better reach their audiences with their current platforms, they open new capabilities that have the potential to develop corporate communication, the corporate brand, and the organization as a whole.
Technology-mediated communication offers powerful tools for building engagement with key stakeholders. These tools have the potential for organizations to more accurately identify, understand, and thus target their stakeholders with specific messages through preferred channels while at the same time providing opportunity for interaction and engagement.
However, there tends to be a tendency to focus on the technology and software, as opposed to the benefits that they present. Technology will never be more than a part of any communication process or strategy where communication practitioners base decisions of media use on thorough research of their stakeholders.
This includes knowing what motivates people to use social media or other technology-mediated communication. According to research the primary driver for people to spend time on social media is social interaction followed by information seeking.
10 points to consider
It is therefore important that organizations consider a few caveats before engaging in or considering new media:
- Do not let technology drive communication strategy; it is a tool.
- Organizations must always keep in mind the objectives of their interaction with their stakeholder groups. These may be sharing information, changing or enforcing attitudes, or changing or enforcing behavior.
- A good communication strategy identifies stakeholders, their needs and how they want to be communicated with.
- The existence of more data/information and more channels does not necessarily translate into communication that is more effective, but it may help in more precise targeting of stakeholders and a data-driven content.
- The Internet promised the ability to dialogue but many organizations find it challenging to use the technology, and some promises have never materialized. Organizations need to understand what constitutes dialogue and to recognize it when it occurs.
- Communication using keyboards and pads often takes longer than face-to-face communication, but written communication is often shorter and more precise.
- Capturing organization-wide data for use in communication that builds relationships and reputation presupposes an organization-wide mindset.
- Interpersonal communication will remain the most effective/persuasive. Face-to-face will still be the richest channel, but technology may augment any channel that combine channels, i.e. live video and document sharing.
- Most of what we know about technology-driven communication comes from studies on consumer goods and services firms. Organizations should not blindly accept that these tools are effective for all stakeholders.
- It is a steep learning curve for organization to use technology-mediated communication for collaboration and co-creation, as well as engaging in feedback loops.
Understanding the suitability
Recent developments in technology-mediated communication have seemingly made building and sustaining relationships between an organization and its stakeholders easier. And there will be many new technologically-mediated communication tools over the next years, many of which can be adapted by organizations for use in influencing and engaging stakeholders.
It is also clear that most communication professionals are enthusiastic about technological developments.
Key is to remember that using any tool without properly understanding its suitability in a communication strategy is a waste of organizational resources if stakeholders are not interested in it or do not respond to it.
This article is first published in Communication for Leaders No. 2 - 2017.
Communication for Leaders is a Science Communication Magazine published by Centre for Corporate Communication and Department of Communication and Culture at BI Norwegian Business School.