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Communication - 'Excuse me, did you say you love me?'

communication,important,language,social network,tools

Monday, March 15, 2010

Rajit Nair

The hilarious British comedy “Mind Your Language” till date rated as the best satire on the English language by immigrants to the United Kingdom Who can forget the English instructor (played by (Barry Evans) and his migrant students struggling to learn the language? The submission of womens' reservation bill in the Lok Sabha (Indian Parliament) was delayed due to lack of support within the UPA allies. Mamata Banerjee, the Minister for Railways was quoted saying, there is a lack of communication between the Congress, the major party and with its cronies. To mend the mistake the Congress is now holding meetings to communicate and gain support for a seamless passing of the historic bill.

The importance of communication is undoubtedly important in all walks of our lives. Since the early origins of human civilizations, different means and tools were used to communicate activities and passion. Cave drawings indicate how human beings tried to express their feelings and emotions much before a language was developed.

It is fun to watch our driving license aspirants following the rulebook when it comes to the hand signals. The day they ‘graduate’ to licensed drivers, such lessons are ignored or dumped and then communication while driving turns into gestures using fingers or shrieks.

Today’s college goers and youngsters, especially those smitten with love bugs are lucky enough to have seamless communication with a plethora of options. Thanks to technology! While I was in college, the only communication channel during holidays is just our rotary phone at home. Being at the heart of the living room, the job always poised privacy issues. When I started earning, the highest luxury came in the form of pagers (first came the numeric pagers and then the text enhanced ones). The main drawback of pagers is that it required ‘middlemen’ in the form of a call center agent (at that time it was just a facilitation center) to decipher our voice messages to text and forwards to the receiver’s pager, again, a privacy leak!

Unlike before, today, all can make the world hear their voices through different vehicles like the social networking sites (like Facebook, Twitter), blogs and so on. Dr. Shashi Tharoor, the Indian Minister of State for External Affairs is one of the leaders with 600,000 plus tweeter followers in India. Being a people’s representative and at the same time being a minister required to be always out of the country, tweeting helps him to communicate directly to his followers, his views, opinions, sympathizes and so on. As expected, the Indian political intricacies sometimes drive him to controversies too.

In a corporate setting, communication is the biggest tool that keeps employees updated and motivated. It keeps the customers, clients and the public informed too. For effective teamwork, communication plays the pivotal role. Successful companies always put their efforts to communicate strategies, objectives and their expectations from the department, team and employees with clarity. For the external world too, corporate communication plays vital role as mentioned before. The growth of the company, its periodic performances, especially if listed (in Stock Exchanges) all depends on their corporate communication strategies and channels. Transparency in communication is the underlying principle of good corporate governance in the corporate world. With which a company would be judged and could create confidence among its investor’s and stakeholders.

Companies employ different tools in different media such as press releases in the print and electronic media, billboards, websites, groups in social networking sites, Twitter and even You tube. However, some companies misuse such spaces, especially press releases. In pursuit of creating a market presence or increasing popularity of the individual holding the reins of the company, press releases were made even for trivial issues. This excessive attention seeking would gain some followers initially, but later the readers or the viewers will get bored and trigger aversion.

A market research company launched in 2009 used to announce loudly with pomp through their press releases every time they sign a project. This act helped the competitors map the client base of the new ‘avatar’ and amend their strategy as well. As a company enjoying its honeymoon, they used to get clients during the first year of its inception. However, the initial enthusiasm dried up within the first year and company’s press releases also followed suit. The competitors and the ardent followers would suddenly make out from the void that the company has no or less projects. Thus with their own false marketing strategy or greed or immaturity to be in the limelight always, tarnished the image of the company, its services and its employees. It should be noted that in a downward slide even this would also act as a factor along with other detrimental factors.

There are companies where all activities are kept in the dark. Employees are even caught unaware of management changes and get shocked when they see new management functionaries in the corridor of the company. This is a very bad precedent, as employees should be kept updated about changes so that they will not feel alienated and shocked.

In India, we are witnessing tremendous competition among the mobile service providers. This growth paved the way for having quality customer care initiatives, including having a help desk handled through call centers in major cities. Hi tech banks also started moving towards this direction and utilize 24/7 customer care centers, in-house or outsourced. As call center agents are now becoming the first contact for majority of subscribers/customers as in the case of banks, it is very important to have agents well trained in customer handling and product knowledge. I was fortunate or unfortunate to get in touch with agents who respond as if they are programmed robots. The droning answers and their attitude not to take an extra mile to help the caller would definitely make users like me to switch providers.

Similarly, due to faulty marketing strategies, some operators ‘harass’ their subscribers with irritating call based advertisements. How many drivers (light to heavy vehicle drivers) get distracted and meeting with accidents on a daily basis from such nuisance calls is worth counting. This is again a good example for misuse of a communication conduit and technology.

Proper communication is important in not only business, but in relationships like guru-student, mentor–mentee, doctor-patient, client-lawyer, producer-director, director-actors, and so on. Successful outcomes from all these relationships are purely based on honesty and continued communication or exchange of information.

Using the right tool, the right set of words, the right media and the right timing is what communication is all about. The recent episodes involving famous cine artist Thilakan and the Association of Malayalam Movie Artists (AMMA) is an example of the above.

In well-structured companies, HR usually leads the communication initiatives with the support of other departments. Employee portals, newsletters, meetings are among a few such channels successfully utilized for internal communication.

Communication requires that all parties have an area of communicative commonality. Therefore, for effective communication, both the sender and the receiver should share a repertoire of signs and semiotic rules. That’s theory, what is then the reality? Your comments!

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