Is the art of communication dead?

By Tom Lee, Account Director

Yes it is, in no uncertain terms. Why do you think it’s so easy to get free unlimited minutes on your phone contract rather than data? Because everyone uses a messaging app to ‘talk’ nowadays.

With the increased focus on new innovation in the technology space a new buzzword comes out every week. But one buzzword is quickly becoming a lost art-form. I’m talking about communication. When was the last time you had a good conversation? I’m not talking about the last funny text you received or the latest meme. I’m talking about speaking to someone on the phone or face-to-face. When was the last time you picked up the phone to talk to your friend rather than send them a text? It’s probably a rarer occurrence than you’d like to believe.

Convenience and a lack of time are factors that we all struggle with in modern life, but you could point out that they are increasingly being used as excuses. While we could work around this in our personal lives, we simply can’t let it become the norm for businesses.

There’s a movie called ‘The Last Samurai’ – yes this does have a point, stay with me. The movie has a scene where Tom Cruise, playing an American character in Japan, fails to introduce himself to his host, a culture-rich samurai whose native tongue is obviously not English. The samurai’s reaction, predictably, is that this lack of introduction was extremely rude. But after Cruise’s character atones for his error, the samurai cuts the conversation short and states ‘this was a very good conversation’. This may seem odd to us, but in actuality what makes a conversation positive for one person may be completely different to another person of different culture, background and lifestyle.

How does this relate to PR? Well fundamentally our day-to-day job at Whiteoaks requires us to have a strong element of good communication — whether that’s to our clients, the media or the end customer. And the importance of being able to communicate properly is utterly critical for brands, especially those that have a presence on social media. The key to good communication is adaptability. If person A tweets your company using slang and person B uses properly formed sentences, should you respond to each one in the same way? Well of course not, the same way you wouldn’t speak to two customers in exactly the same way if they came into your shop. But this is something many companies are failing to realise, two customers might have completely different views about your brand.

Businesses must understand that the way they communicate with not only their customers, but also with other stakeholders, like the media has a huge impact on reputation and how they are perceived. While tailoring communications according to audience may seem like a pretty standard approach, increasingly it’s losing momentum as we veer more towards using social media. Is it really possible to please all of the people all of the time?
I think it is possible – certainly to please most audiences most of the time — firstly by understanding the need for the art of communication, and secondly by working with partners like PR firms that have specialised resources, like in-house content creation, to ensure you’re ticking the messaging boxes and engaging with audiences in the right way.