The Anchor: 6 ways to create pathbreaking & sustainable communication for a brand

25 Jul,2012

By N Chandramouli


Everyone loves to win, though only a few have what it takes to prepare for the win. Sustainable Communication is that organizational winning strategy.


1. Future relevant communication

In my several thousand interactions with CEOs and top management, one significant conclusion with regard to communication has dawned – successful organizations always have top-driven communication.


Though everyone understands the importance of communication, most top management are unwilling to get involved enough to deep-impact it. Most only want to see results without wanting to participate in its creation.


Communication is treated as an essential, but ‘extraneous’ service to the organization. Therefore, while the result is important, how it is achieved, is not. The communication function most often reports into marketing, and due to this, the entire organization’s communication remains partial to marketing communication.


Sustainable Communication is that which impacts the future of the organization, and without the direct involvement and guidance of the top management, the organization’s future cannot be impacted. Organizations where the top management does not give communication the maximum attention remain myopic without much control over their own destiny. It also silently encourages the ‘dynamite fishermen’ to play havoc, severely damaging the communication environment of the organization.


For an organization that wants to remain relevant in the future, the person piloting it has to be fully committed to Sustainable Communication giving it requisite time, energy and direction.


2. Communication Philosophy

All systems run on some principle and only when articulated explicitly do they become ‘believable’- a prerequisite for adherence. Its expression is the first step for Sustainable Communication to take root, and this creates adherence at the deepest level in the organization.


The Communication Philosophy of an organization is an analysis of the organization’s reason for existence, its values, nature and its reality. It asks three fundamental questions, the answers to which define a Brand’s topography for Sustainable Communication.


Q. Why do we communicate?

Neophytes usually get drawn to answering this in terms of the business goals of the company, but this question must not be taken too literally. It is necessary for the answers to be unshackled from the business goals, and therein lies its difficulty. The Communication Philosophy seeks out the intrinsic nature of the organization’s communication, and this answer helps understand the organization’s true objectives in relation to its ecosystem.

Q. How will we communicate?

The answer to this question gives guidelines for communication to the organization. It also elaborates the tone and tenor of communication, and most importantly, the Brand’s not-to-do list.  This usually sets the foundation for all to adhere to.

Q. What do we want to communicate about us?

The answer to this reveals the ideally desired perception. Since the seed of communication lies in its action, it is necessary that this ideal seeps into every action the organization takes. While articulating its response, one must consider the different states of the entity; current, future and the approach to overcome this aspirational gap. The danger with ideal perceptions is that they tend to fly, and therefore, its articulation should be grounded in reality.


3. Discovering Communication pathways

Every organization has natural communication trails within them. They use these pathways predisposed to communication because of interdependencies within the sub-group. Use of these interdependencies provides natural energies for supporting the Sustainable Communication structure. Often hidden beneath the surface, unexposed to the organization, these trails need to be discovered with focus. Once found and worked on (no different from real pathways), these pathways will automatically draw more communication traffic through them.


To discover these trails, a deeper understanding of each sub-group’s aspirations, interests, preferences and culture is necessary. These communication trails are also useful in two-way communication and have the scope to become robust feedback systems.


4. Integrated approach

An integrated approach looks at the organization’s communication philosophy from various dimensions. Some are listed below, but this is a dynamic list and must be added to by the communicator – the more that get included in this list, the more sustainable an organization’s communication will be. The communication should be integrated from the dimensions of:


1. Culture – The organization’s communication must be integrated with the culture of its people and of the society that it exists in.

2. Vision – All communication of the organization must emanate from a common, expressed vision.

3. Time – The organization’s communication must be relevant to the past and the future of the entity while remaining aligned to its present.

4. Environment – The communication must be in harmony with the environment the brand engages with, eliminating any damage to it.

5. Audiences – It must be integrated with the needs of all the primary audiences of the organization; clients, employees, shareholders among others.

6. Audience Degrees – It must be integrated with the primary, secondary and tertiary audiences and must be relevant to all three.

7. Knowledge – Sustainable Communication must have an integrated approach to creation, storing and dissemination of knowledge.

8. Lifecycle – It must have a regenerative approach such that the birth to demise message lifecycle is considered.

9. Function Collective – Each function of a business must reinforce the collective, and the collective must reinforce each function’s communication.


5. Multi-polarity

Multi-polarity tends to maximize communication efficiencies and as it looks at several polarities achieved through each message. For an organization to have Sustainable Communication, while the main focus could be one or a few, the multi-polarity maximizes value by deriving more from the same message. The more polarities that get included in the message, the more sustainable it is. These polarities are:

1. Multi objective – Each communication must impact multiple objectives in positive ways.

2. Multi sensory – Such that it integrates experiences of as many senses as possible – cognitive, tactile, auditory, visual.

3. Multi-audience - The same communication should reach several audiences.

4. Multi noded – There must be several crossover nodes of several communication pathways to facilitate interaction at the nodes.

5. Multi functional – It should take into consideration the needs of all the functions (like finance, human resources, marketing and others) around the communication.

6. Issue Chain

An Issue Chain is the identification of the natural issues of any system that gives it the propensity to communicate. These depend on its contributors – sector, audiences, technology and others that are issues that drive communication energy. To better this Sustainable Communication method, it is necessary to identify the various issues in the sub-systems and then build communications around these. Such communication sustains itself through the energy that others put into it as it is of their interest.


N Chandramouliis Author of upcoming book Decoding Communication and CEO Comniscient Group


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