Communications, in all forms, across all channels, glue everything together: alliances, customers, voters, partnerships, employees, shareholders. Elections.
Here in Australia, last night’s Queensland State election result, and the continuing debate at the Federal level about the government and its leader Tony Abbott, underpin this point.
One argument made against the former Labor Government at Federal and State levels was lack of clarity around important policies that were difficult to explain.
The same argument is now being made about the current Coalition government, and the former Coalition government in Queensland.
But communications, the need always to communicate, the need always to explain, the need always to reason and persuade, applies everywhere, from international government policy agendas to your local school P&C.
Persuasion, and therefore communications, can never be instantaneous, so cannot rely on slogans (and in any case, slogans can be countered with slogans from others).
Communications are never quick, or rarely simple or straightforward (so cannot be glib).
They demand resources, expertise and plans that integrate a clear position, clear messages, a sustainable programme to communicate these messages, audience feedback mechanisms and the will to consider and act on that feedback.
They require nerve, the strategic view and tactical focus, and the support of the organization and its senior management (in whatever form).
They demand a detailed understanding of audiences, preferably as individuals, where they go for their information (across all channels), how they network, about levels of influence and predispositions to act.
Today’s necessary focus on soundbites, social media and the 24-hour news cycle has never meant that structured, understandable, relevant messages, in context, to a strategy, building a complete picture, should be abandoned.
The new media world in which we all operate has added complexity, speed and new layers, – but that’s our job to manage and understand. They complement and support that bigger picture. Audiences who are open to your message always, at some point, seek out the detail.
Communications are not an expensive overhead (except when not implemented, as is now clearly visible in Australian politics), and they aren’t a cynical exercise in spin.
They are an essential investment in business, politics and community affairs.