The school system where I live is big on sending out messages. I get texts, emails, app notifications, and calls every day, often multiple times a day, from my kids’ school as well as from the district, usually repeating the same information.
What are they telling me? Which buses in the district are running late, morning and afternoon. (I don’t have a kid who rides the bus.)
Someone got word that parents in the district want more communication, and they are stepping up to the task by blowing up our phones with notifications. Is this what the parents wanted?
What is all this activity for? It’s not in service of communication. Communication is how two or more people share information and ideas together, one to the others, and back again. What this school system is doing, and what many organizations call “Communications,” is more accurately called “Transmissions.” I heard a top executive at a multinational corporation recently bemoan that their communications staff, of which he was the head, couldn’t seem to to break through to their employees. “We send out emails and video chats and webinars and we host conference calls, and no one opens them or uses them.” That is a whole lot of transmitting, and not a lot of receiving.
What would happen if they, and the folks at the school system, took a step back and asked, “What are we trying to do with this information? Who needs it? What will it mean if they don’t get it?” and most important, “How do we want to hear back from the people this is for? What can we do to be incredible listeners?”