Theory has a bad reputation … It is perceived as bland, boring, the stuff of textbooks and the classroom, not the real world. But when it comes to communicating as an organization, theory is an essential element to whether or not you get heard. Because how we communicate is as important as what we communicate.
If businesses are willing to spend hours fine-tuning the language they use for mission statements, business plans, and advertisements, they should also spend time discovering how they should communicate their messages.
The following examples provide some insight into how theories can help your organization better communicate.
The two-step theory argues that our decisions are highly influenced by what opinion leaders say. If a company is looking to install a new telecommunication system, whom do they go to for opinions? Those are opinion leaders for that company when making a decision about telecommunication systems. Now you have to ask yourself, which leaders influence my audience?
Take the U.S. Air Force, for example. The U.S. Air Force recognizes the positive or negative impact opinion leaders can have on their organization. As a result, the U.S. Air Force’s public affairs division has an entire office devoted to opinion leader engagement. Communicating with key opinion leaders can make the difference when competing for a contract or selling your product.
The agenda-setting theory, in short, states that news media do not tell us what to think. Rather, they tell us what to think about. The news of the day influences thoughts, conversations and name recognition.
While social media is all the rage right now, the news media still has great power to disseminate messages about your organization, employees or a competitor – immediately and scale globally. A good relationship with the media is key for your organization to successfully portray a positive brand image through the news media. Because at the end of the day, your organization should be the one on people’s minds and in their conversations.
The Medium is the message.
In 1964, Marshall McLuhan boldly declared that the medium is the message. What he meant is this: the channels we use to communicate stimulate certain ways of thinking, processing and understanding. Twitter, for instance, imposes a 140-word limit on any message or thought, greatly limiting what an organization can communicate. On the flip side, Twitter allows an organization to maintain instantaneous, continuous and close communication with its audience.
McLuhan’s “medium is the message” suggests that Twitter will change how your message is perceived. An organization must think about the type of message it is communicating and through what channels. Sometimes the medium can affect how your message comes across as much as what you say.
This small sampling of examples illustrates that knowing how to communicate can help an organization do so more effectively. Not every theory of communication will be applicable to your organization, but if you can understand the how of communication, the what you are communicating will be far more effective.
Posted by: Elijah Friedeman – Public Relations Intern with The Cirlot Agency