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Communicators comment on changing communication strategies.

Existing and emerging technologies, coupled with the laws of most western nations, dictate that there can indeed be fewer secrets held by organizations than at any time in the past.

The influence of this fact on business communication is significant and will be for a long time to come. With the multiplicity of products and services directed at complex and disparate audiences, the need is simple, honest communication also increases. Response time for organizations has been sharply reduced by technology, which further dictates the need for public communication to be clear and simple.

As with the drive for quality, organizations are still slow to learn not only the value of, but also the importance and absolute necessity of, accurate and strategically appropriate communication. This is in spite of the fact that the leading organizations of virtually every industrial sector embrace and use business communication to its maximum effect.

And these top organizations in growing numbers are giving high priority to internal communication as well as external.

With the diversity Coates describes, the need for the same clear and credible communication flow inside an organization grows. Employees are expected to be increasingly accessible, as are organizations via fax, car phone, cellular phone, electronic mail, voice mail, satellite communication, and on and on. And there's much more to come. One begins to wonder whether society is driving technological developments--or is it the other way around?

Technology is shaping and will help shape the development of international business communication, but I believe Coates' assessment of this to be perhaps a little optimistic and a little simplistic.

I believe that as the world carves itself into major trading blocs--North America, the EC, Asia Pacific, and others, matters of culture and language will become more important over the next decades as nations become more concerned about protecting individual languages, cultures and customs. I believe this will be an additional challenge for business communicators, and language and cultural translations by computer will be only a small part of the solution.

During the Canada-US Free Trade debate in 1988, the major concern of Canadians was protection of cultural properties. A national debate raged for months on this issue, with fears of the larger US market dominating the cultural fabric of the Great White North. This kind of cultural protectionism will also be strong in the much older societies of Europe and Asia.

Common sense must be applied to all business communication. As we approach the next century and the Third Millennium, with all the advances in technology that are here and have yet to arrive, increased sensitivity to employees, audiences, cultures, languages and customs will be key to successful business communication.

Christopher H. Bunting, ABC Chairman and CEO Continental PIR Communications Toronto, Ont.

Coates' observations of changing communication technology seem conceptually correct. The lack of both individual and corporate privacy because of the instant, probing nature of modern communication also seems to be borne out by recent events. There is, however, another issue that impacts seriously on Coates' conclusions--information overload, a factor almost as important as cost of communication.

As professional communicators, our own and our clients' survival is determined not only by our evaluation of technologies and their impacts, but also on what one might call creative use. What Coates reveals is what I woould consider the fundamental facts of modern communication. These new developments have their Achilles hell as well as their benefits. Change will continue at a rapid pace--the principles of effective communication won't change, and the creative and timely use of technologies will still be the responsibility of the professional communicator. This move away from an homogeneous mass audience to a macro audience, and eventually the individual, creates many options and dilemmas. What is theoretically possible may not be commercially practical, what is technologically possible may not be commercially affordable.

With the development of these new media alternatives comes less clearly defined media interaction. The options become more complex, the outcomes more difficult to evaluate. Not because these technologies can't be scientifically measured if we have the time and the money, but because the creative use of the media both individually and collectively will determine success or failure.

The hand and the mind of the communicator still determine the outcome of the game. It's just the real changes and their interpretation that require the professional player to be willing to change and adapt to these technologies, remain open-minded and above all to use them honestly. What Coates alludes to is factually correct; how we react to his hypothesis hasn't been touched on, but then that's where we take over.

Dave Bassett Creative director Consultus New Zealand ltd. Wellington, New Zealand

Anger of special interest groups and the have-nots, mass pressure from the poor, and especially the New Poor, emergence of further politico-economic alliances dividing the world into presently unexpected blocs will confront communicators well into century 21. Corporations may well be radically different as they are forcibly comported to full and public accountability. Excesses of the late 20th century will bring international controls on multinationals; most countries will license corporations to perform not for stockholders/management but primarily for the deemed community good. Certainly in advanced technologically based societies, corporate communicators will have a much more demanding role -- and in many countries will face jail terms if they are shown to have lied or distorted situations in representing a company's position on an issue. It's already happening, actually. Coates makes a plausible case for a North American scenario (possible if the US somehow manages to turn its trading pattern around) but readers must not be gulled into believing this could be a world scenario. It's not going to be like that in China, Botswana, Senegal, Guyana, Bulgaria or Kiribati. And somehow it may not be like that in Amereurop. So much of his expectation is based on gigahertz satellite transmission bands--but as of 1991 there apparently are only eight vacant parking orbits lift for communication satellites. Where are all those channels going to come from? Extending cellular networks to satellite paths seems somewhat iffy. And certainly the majority of the seven or eight billion humans worldwide will be more concerned with where their next meal is coming from rather than pining for a visiphone call from a salesperson or a politician or a corporate executive. There's a Punch cartoon about the guy using a cellular phone and the barman says to other customers. "He's our Global Village Idiot." A cautionary tale.

But methinks that one of the biggest challenges for IABC in the Third Millennium will be to answer for its role in this decade -- heave we done what was should have to train communicators worldwide (and not just in Amereurop) for the years beyond? I'm ready to answer that. Are you?

Douglas Rose Manager, communication services Australian Institute of Petroleum Melbourne, Australia

The most reassuring thing about the future is that it almost never turns out to be what experts expect. Which leads to the state of almost constant surprise, anticipation, apprehension and agitation many of us find ourselves in most of the time and without which most of us would be mightily bored (and many of us unemployed).

Some years ago, in 1968 to be exact, Kaiser Aluminum, in celebration of its 20the anniversary, commissioned four of the then acknowledged world-class futurists to sketch the probabilities of the world 20 years ahead. Among the high-probability (60 percent or above) events expected to occur by 1986 were these:

There would be manned military bases in space. Short-term weather forecasting would be highly reliable. Fertility control would be effectively practiced worldwide. The economical production of fresh water from sea water would be in effect worldwide. A manned lunar base would exists. Full color 3-D television would be in use worldwide. The implantation of artificial organs would be a common practice. And private passenger cars would be barred from most city cores.

The only point in this recitation is that the future never turns out to be exactly what we think it might.

Which is not to suggest, of course, that thinking about the future isn't a useful exercise. We need some vision of the future to help us shape our plans. But we ought to shape those plans with the understanding that the only thing (other than death) that we can truly count on is change. And that the constant, unrelenting, and accelerating pace of change alters present reality so rapidly that scoping future realities in anything other than the most general of ways is at best a guessing game, and at worst a wish.

The result is that trying to make long-range plans built on forecasts of whatever discipline that extend out much over 12 months isn't very realistic anymore. Short-range planning is a three-month drill.

So count on it. Change is the only constant. And ain't it grand.

Ron Rhody Senior vice president Bank of America San Francisco, Calif.
COPYRIGHT 1991 International Association of Business Communicators
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Communication World
Date:Jun 1, 1991
Previous Article:Today's events produce tomorrow's communication issues.
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