Communicate to Connect — Beating the Infodemic

Posted on February 19, 2021

A person touches the screen of a phone.

Today’s Buzz is by Katie Nelson (Twitter and LinkedIn)

What I am reading: The Revolt of the Public

What I am Listening to: Small Town Murder

What I am Watching: WandaVision 

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

George Bernard Shaw, the Irish playwright, was ahead of his time – he couldn’t have any idea that his musings on the belief system of communication would persist, and be applicable to, the digital age.

We continue to face an infodemic. People are exhausted with the belief by government agencies that if more information is just put out there, they will inevitably see it. But that is where government agencies continue to find their greatest weaknesses.

The continue to believe that pushing information out, even repeatedly and consistently, will lead to absorption. That is the illusion.

“The less people know, the more they yell.”

Seth Godin couldn’t have said it any better. Nothing creates further animosity towards an organization, agency or a brand than a lack of awareness and knowledge. But knowledge must be something that people learn in their way. It cannot be force-fed to them, especially highly functional adults who are digital natives.

As each new social media app comes online, government agencies must not only adopt new methods of communication, they must adapt to them quickly. Look at the City of Minneapolis, or the City of Columbus, Ohio, as two early adopters of TikTok who have now connected with an entirely robust, and unique, group of residents and beyond to educate and inform while still operating in the vein that those users prefer.

Why have people caring loudly at you, when you can have people caring loudly with you? This isn’t a ‘meet the moment’ scenario. This is a ‘meet them where they are’ mentality.

“Great communication begins with connection.”

Freaking Oprah Winfrey said that, folks. And she wasn’t wrong.

To truly communicate, we must create connection. As such, we still see too many agencies and organizations defaulting to one-way pushes of information. Again, the illusion of communication. It should be a foundational value that we all champion to insist on two-way engagement, to consider 280 characters the starting point of a true conversation.

This is particularly important in a crisis. Following the death of George Floyd, the law enforcement profession faced a character crisis as it grappled with longstanding concerns and deeply rooted fears around treatment of people of color. Chief Chris Hsiung, and many others including Chief Doug Shoemaker, saw the need for better efforts to move forward with connection through communication. What so many lacked, before they could get to the table to have meaningful moments of interaction and understanding, was simply connection.

“Good communication is as stimulating as black coffee, and just as hard.”

Anne Spencer, a civil rights activist, American poet, librarian and gardener said that. This journey for us to be as best as we can be with strategic communications cannot be one where we default to what we know. It’s going to be hard. We have to constantly adapt. We have to constantly try, sometimes fail, and continue to rise up. Do not rest on what worked yesterday.

We’re in this profession because we want to change it for the better. We’ve seen where it has failed, and we know we can help it be better. Let’s be that coffee, and let’s kick it into high gear.

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