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Communication: the undiscovered country (or is it planet?).

Thank goodness that phaser was set on stun. Otherwise, I'd be cosmic dust by now because it hit me three times near the heart.

"It just needs a little wordsmithing," the creature said, smiling knowingly as it fired the first phaser blast.

Then, as it fired again, "Oh, so you're the company photographer."

Finally, with the third shot, "When we get the details worked out, we'll call you in to communicate it."

I enter the preceding words into the log of the starship Communicator in the hope that they will help guide me and those who follow safely through the many traps that lurk on that blue planet where the adventure began. So that we all may live long and prosper.

It's no coincidence "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country" hits movie screens just as Communication World examines our changing profession. That title, "The Undiscovered Country," fits well into this examination of organizational communication.

Why?

I'm glad you asked.

Certainly, we must do the traditional tasks of internal communication well. But to add real value to our companies we must - as a profession - follow our early adventurers into what remains, for most of us, undiscovered country.

Let's make a couple of lists together, or at least make a start, about our own changing profession.

Let's call the first list "things that successful business communicators used to settle for, but can no longer afford." (Later, we'll call the second list "things that successful business communicators must do consistently to earn their money as Earth continues to evolve.")

The first list - successful business communicators no longer are:

1. wordsmiths (a word that, because it is so limiting, snaps the tiny hairs on the nape of my neck to attention);

2. professional smilers or gladhanders;

3. company photographers;

4. funnels, who take what they are given and regurgitate it on a page or screen;

5. temperamental artists;

6. journalists;

7. afterthoughts in the organizational trenches; and (insert your own favorites)

8.

9.

10.

The second list - successful business communicators must:

1. help employees prevent and solve problems;

2. help employees make sense out of change;

3. help employees make better decisions by sharing news and providing education about issues affecting the organization;

4. help strengthen the organization by helping it create its future;

5. help strengthen the organization by creating bridges between individual events;

6. help strengthen the organization by helping employees understand and appreciate their own - and others'-roles within the organization; and (insert your own favorites)

7.

8.

9.

10.

Perhaps that second list - as a whole - isn't as exciting as numbers five and six from the first list, but it's certainly more exciting than two, three, four and seven. Unless you're pretty imaginative, it may even be more exciting than whatever you put into eight, nine and 10.

We still need, and always will need, our technical skills - even as technology changes the way we use them. But successful exploration of the undiscovered country rests in the second list.

Time, we hear, is compressing, and the world is shrinking. While I have my doubts about both of those statements in the literal sense, I do understand that we seem to be busier than ever and more competitive than ever as the communication hardware and software people challenge us to keep up with them. Companies are doomed if their employees do not understand or accept newness. We, in theory, are the chief translators of reality. (Sure, that statement, like Star Trek, is a little over-dramatized, but you get the point.) Tom Geddie is supervisor of internal communication at Central and South West Services, I ., in Dallas, Texas.

SAY IT ISN'T SO ! We reluctantly offer you the "Am I a Flack?' test, which first appeared in the April issue of Phildelphia. Magazine.

If you answer yes to four more of the questions, then you're a flack.

1) Have I sent an invitation, which, he, opened, spa" Confetti onto a writer's W.

2) Have I not updated mY mailing Um since the early '70s?

3) Have I pitched a story to a magazine I haven't read or a TV program I haven't seen?

4) Have I, in the Past Y-1 sent to publications photos of people shaking hands and receiving awards when those publications would never print such photos?

5) Have I tried to sit in on an interview between a journalist and a client, claiming that I want to be on hand to supply important background information?

6) Have I sent anything by fax that wasn't specifically requested to be sent by fax?

7) Have I sent a thank-you note or a Oft to a reporter who Wrote positively about my client?

8) Have I shaken hands with a member of the press and handed him or her a business, card all in the same motion?

9) Have I used the words 'MY client is an advertiser' when making, pitch?

10) Have I sent a multipage release and not used both side of the paper? Have I sent a press kit when a release would do? Do I not care if them are any trees left for MY children's children?"

Let's hope that the term "flack," and the image it implies, fades into the annuals of history. Meanwhile, maybe we should send Philadelphia Magazine into orbit.
COPYRIGHT 1992 International Association of Business Communicators
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Section 1: Drawing from the Past to Build the Future; includes related article
Author:Geddie, Tom
Publication:Communication World
Date:Jan 1, 1992
Words:883
Previous Article:The father of public relations: Edward L. Bernays.
Next Article:A real look in the mirror.
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