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When in Doubt – Over Communicate

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In spite of going “Social”, the networking tools, the gadget & countless hours of employee trainings on communication, there is never a lack of problems attributed towards communication. More often than not, it is due to lack of communication and the quality of the message.

Since the time Information Management came to be the heart of the most organization’s structure, the role of communication in the system has been substantial. In the last few years Social Media had taken up a major chunk of the responsibility for Communication, with many organizations using it as a medium to connect with their customers. In spite of the embarrassing issues attributed to irresponsible use of Social Media, organizations still use tools such as Twitter, Pinterest & Facebook, to reach out.

While most of these unpleasant episodes have arose due to errors in communication or lack of proper content, I am here to ask you to Over-Communicate; And why you should do more of it.

Communication

Social Networks give organizations and corporates a human face to reach out. The interactions in the form of status messages, photos and videos, constantly remind the customer or “fan/follower” about the product/service along with any promotions.

While Social Networks have reaped benefits for most organizations, some still rely on what is now primitive – email communications and phone calls from a sales representative. Irrespective of the mode, it is the human connect which is the vigour of driving this connection.

But, when there is a moment of crisis the very same channels for networking, stop acting human and blackout. It could be a crisis in the service, a stock debacle or like in Instagram’s case – a policy change gone terribly wrong. It is during these tough times when customers, partners and investors needs to be comforted and assured that the brand which they became fans of and followed, have not broken their trust.

During these tough times, it is the very same communication who kept certain daily updates, mails and calls, to ensure that their fans are aware of the problems and the efforts they are putting to resolve it. Not all problems have a quick fix and customers can understand that, but network silence till that point could have adverse effects.

These communications lessons are not just for the organizations who behave like humans, but also for individuals themselves. Over-Communication as a rule was something I personally learnt the hard way. Daily or weekly communications were a rule for long projects with multiple stakeholders. But on a slow moving project, with little or no change in status with multiple stakeholders, communication is not only a pain but a matter of embarrassment.

The thought of giving the same update over and over in consecutive meetings made me cringe and cancelling update meetings became a norm. This seemed to work well for me since I needed to update only during the big wins or major issues, but unfortunately that was not to be.

A breakdown of communication from what was regular to nil filled the stakeholder’s mind with doubt and apprehension. The same kind of doubt, a customer/fan feels when an organization decided to go quiet. As expected, I was summoned for a senior level call (not the kind, I wanted to be part of) to understand what is going on and what we were hiding.

Long story short, walking out of the meeting, I felt I had lost the trust of my stakeholders and I would require lot of effort to get it back. Much more than the effort to constantly communicate updates, even if there weren’t any.

Since then, over-communication has worked like a charm. It is essential we understand the medium the receiver is comfortable with. Nobody likes being spammed in their mailbox. A regular, quick and precise call would suffice in such cases and keep them posted when it matters to them the most.

What is your communication strategy? Let me know in the comments section below.

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About Abhijith Jayakumar

Abhijith Jayakumar is a Principal Consultant with a leading IP Development company in India. A Six Sigma Quality enthusiast, he has over 6years of experience in Management, Quality, Six Sigma & Risk Management. You can follow Abhijith on Linkedin

One comment

  1. Girish Chander Y, CEO Ideaplunge

    Great write and much needed one. I am with you till the point where started to say “to overcome a deficient communication, i started over communicating” (not in those exact words though). What we sometime fail to understand is – our customers and stakeholders are not dumb. They recognize patterns, they understand your move. The case in example – instagram, if they are had gone all out and tried to quell the fire through over -communication, would it have helped? Would it have made the difference? I don’t think so, damage done is always done. How much ever you do later is only “damage control” – you have lost the trust. Coming back to your point – regular updates to help mitigate the paranoia of leaders (aka senior management). Status updates are so passe. They are out of date in short words. The need of the hour is for these stakeholders to be a part of the process. It isn’t simply about delegating work and sitting back, tuning in for status updates. The current businesses demand that they be a part of it, to start the cycle by being proactive. Walking down to you and asking, “Hey dude, do you need help? Let me get a quick handle of where we are.” TOP-DOWN DELEGATION and waiting to hear are “NOT GOING TO WORK ANYMORE”. What leaders/ stakeholders/ management fail to recognize is they are all cogs in the same wheel. Unless they work together, they aint going to move ahead. And that attitude will take the company / business and YOU forward.

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