Friday, August 12, 2011

Strategic Communication and the Era of Social Media: An Alternate Definition

Although much has been written about Strategic Communications (SC), unfortunately there is little agreement amongst its many practitioners. Some practitioners view SC as a concept of facilitating communication to allow an organisation to attain its long-term strategic goal, while other practitioners view SC as a process to co-ordinate an organisation's internal and external communication processes. To me, I believe that SC is all of the above and more. Allow me to explain ...

As I advocated in one of my earlier posting, in the Era of Social Media, organisations now operate in an environment where practically anybody can create and disseminate “news” contents. These “Citizen Journalists” can now galvanise populace support as widely and as effectively as any big budget news organisations. Additionally, the Internet's ability to provide instantaneous news on a 24/7 basis, consolidated and indexed (via intelligent search engines), has made it the primary source of information. The convergence of media technology has therefore fundamentally altered the way individuals receive news and gather information and has created the dimensions of User Generated Contents and Rallying Tools.

Together, these two new dimensions has effectively changed the information environment. Information is now becoming as valuable as prime real estate where top-search engine rankings and positive (or negative) reviews on influential blogs can have tremendous impact an organisation's fortunes. In view of this, I have defined Strategic Communications as a social media centric process of managing an organisation's communications to its stakeholders via aligning (and leveraging where possible) communication channels to deliver a consistent Theme to achieve a strategic end state.

Unfortunately, many organisations today use Social Media as an ancillary communication channel and continue to communicate to their stakeholders via a multitude of out-dated and ineffective channels. To their credit, these organisation have acknowledged the need to have a consistent message and have adopted SC as a process to co-ordinate and align their various communications channels. Regrettably, what these organisations are finding is that, even with SC, they are losing the communication battle as Social Media continues to out-flank and out-manoeuvre them at every turn. This is happening because Social Media is rapidly becoming the de facto news and information platform and without a Social Media centric communication platform, these organisations will never be able to effectively communicate their Themes and Messages.

Thus, organisations seeking to effect SC must first understand and accept the increasing impact of Social Media on the new information environment and place SC at the center of its Corporate Strategy where communication can then be used to deliver either supporting or 1st order effects and add to the organisation's bottom line. Given Social Media's assured dominance of the information environment in the near future, Social Media's central role in future communications is inevitable and organisations need to restructure now to effectively deal with it.

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