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Communication is all about being heard and understood

Paul McCartney's handwritten lyrics to the Beatles song Yesterday (1966) at the British Library of London. Photo: Marcelo Schneider

In most medium- to large sized organizations, there is a communications function dealing with all kinds of “communication issues.” Usually, that comprises everything from producing a broad variety of presentation material and managing websites to writing stories, handling media relations and advising management teams. The tasks are challenging and often stressful. Professionalism and integrity are key.

A common misconception is that the communicator is a person whom you can turn to when you need a last-minute PowerPoint presentation or have something you urgently want published on a website or distributed to the media.

A communications department is neither merely a distribution hub for more or less relevant material, nor a service function for on-demand material. It is a strategic function manned with well-educated experts on how to reach out to the right audiences with the right messages at the right time. All in a systematic and efficient fashion, within budgets and in close alignment with the organization’s overall strategies.

Communicators possess the same level of expertise in their area as you do in yours, no matter what that is. We look upon communication needs from a different perspective – the receiver-end perspective – where objectives, substance, relevance and quality are key elements.
As communicators, we provide value to the organizations we serve by providing value to desired audiences, whose attention we want to catch and who are the “end-consumers” of what we produce. That requires a bit of analysis and stake-holder dialogue. Because, unless communication adds real value and fulfils clear objectives, it is nothing but a waste of time and money.
After an analysis of the current situation and factual status of the issues involved, objectives have to be determined and clearly articulated, so that we know what it is that we want to accomplish. The next step is to carve out a communication strategy to take us there, followed by a concrete implementation plan and a systematic follow-up on its impact.
This four-step approach, analysis, strategy, implementation and follow-up is a well-proven method to ensure that the right things are done in the right way and order.

It may seem as a far-fetched comparison, but Sir Elton John once said that in the recording studio the producer is right 95 percent of the times. Sir Paul McCartney would probably agree, because if it weren’t for Beatles-producer George Martin, there wouldn’t have been a string quartet on his masterpiece “Yesterday.” It would thus have sounded different and perhaps not become the huge success it was. With his tasteful arrangement, Martin not only saw the potential of McCartney’s song in musical terms, but also enabled The Beatles to reach new audiences.

Thus, producers are not merely people who set up studio recordings technically. They are creative craftsmen who add value. The same can be said about communicators. Our job is to see where the potential is in terms of communications early on and how that potential best can be transformed into concrete actions to fulfil desired objectives.
Bringing clarity to complex issues and making things interesting, understandable and compelling is what professional communicators are trained to do. Accomplishing that requires a critical and constructive approach to all kinds of communication proposals and needs. That is a crucial part of our role.

In the end, it’s all about adding the strings.

About the author :

Claus Grue is a senior communications professional with extensive experience from both the public and private sector, as well as the media. A long-time advocate of communicative leadership and empowerment through communications, Claus has supported and trained executives, managers and church leaders in all aspects of strategic communications for a number of years. An avid storyteller, Claus also contributes regularly with feature material to the WCC website.