Mediation vs. Regurgitation – Understanding the New Role of Communicators

I had a fascinating discussion last night over some drinks and nachos that led to a rant about the role of communicators  — one that is happening now, today, this very second.

It’s this Irishman’s opinion that the transformation of the traditional role of communicators (the theme of this blog, really) is still lost on some of the biggest names out there in the private sector, NGOs as well as in government.  There is still WAY too much regurgitation – one-way communications in which a company issues a press release, people pitch reporters in the hopes that they will pick it up and media outlets either run it or don’t run it.  Side note:  See the post on Esther Schindler’s advice as well as her commentary.

Although the chart below deals with marketing, I think that it could easily apply to one-way communications (credit to David Armano’s EXCELLENT Logic+Emotion blog):

Again, this graphic makes the point better than my words could (it’s worth 1,000 words, I believe), but it demonstrates a one-way communications model, clearly based upon a closed system.  You can easily substitute the words “buyers” for “readers.”

My dinner last night took me to a rant in which I postulated that we, as communicators in the public or private sector, have in essence, lost control of the conversation.  It’s not a bad thing, but it just happened. With very few exceptions, we can’t direct how people feel.

The old way (or for some, the “current way”) is that formal communication is/was to be a top-down exercise. Someone set the agenda and controlled the information that was published.

The new way, due to consumer-generated content, is  everyone is a publisher, and everyone is connected to everyone else.  Trust communities  and social networks rule the day.  People tend to believe information that comes from a trusted source more than from a top-down model.  What this means is that we need to view ourselves as mediators, not communicators. The conversations are happening all around us;  rather than attempting to control the conversation in a top-down manner, good communicators will know a) what is happening in the conversation and b) know if and when to jump in and offer a point of view and c) how not to screw it up.

Again, borrowing from the Logic+Emotion blog, here’s an example of how marketing and public relations are the same in the new model:

Over my nachos last night, I likened the role of communicators the being at the center of a whirlwind — and sometimes a tornado, occasionally reaching out to re-direct the air flow.  You can’t stop a tornado;  for the most part, you ride it out and hope for the best.

The debate about us, our issues, our employers, our candidates, our interests — is all happening around is, just like in a tornado.  Good communicators know that our job is one of mediation, not regurgitation.



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