Stop Communicating (or at least pause until you think this through)

Neil ButlerUntypical Thoughts

So, here we are in what we all hope is a post-COVID environment.

Right now, there seems to be a mad scramble for attention as businesses seek to re-establish themselves – emails are flying in all directions, podcasts are popping up everywhere, newsletters are being created, etc, etc.

Have you stopped and considered your communications approach or have you just gone back to what may or may not have worked before COVID-19 hit?

My guess is that in 95+% of cases, businesses and other organisations have just gone back to what they’ve always done.

Before I go any further, let’s consider a couple of critical definitions.

According to one online dictionary, communication is an exchange of information between two parties. Engagement, on the other hand, is the building of an involvement or a commitment.

Most organisations have a communications approach / strategy / plan. For many, this translates to a series of emails being sent out to a mailing list – customers, clients, employees, shareholders and other stakeholders. Some organisations have stepped out of that one-dimensional world and have incorporated a podcast or YouTube channel into that communications approach.

But, at the end of the day, we are still talking about a one-way stream of information from the organisation to the recipient.

Given the need to re-connect with your wide range of stakeholders – is communication enough anymore?

Let’s consider a couple of really important questions.

Do you really want to receive another email from another organisation? No, I didn’t think so. There’s probably a very good chance that your stakeholders don’t either.

If your communications plan involves sending emails out, how do you know if the recipients are reading them? I have worked in organisations where the opening rate is used to determine the success of the email – all that tells me is that the email message was opened. This often occurs automatically when people scroll through their emails. Yes, you can use click through numbers as an indication too but all that does is tells you that someone clicked on a link – it doesn’t give you any indication that they have read and absorbed the destination content.

And this is where engagement comes to the fore.

Engagement is so much more than communication. Engagement is about putting strategies in place to facilitate conversation. To build relationships. To foster connection. To develop interaction and involvement.

Yes, communication plays an important role in any engagement activity. But – and here’s the really big but – if you are still firing communications out into the market or across your organisation without re-thinking your strategy in the context of engagement, I would suggest you are just contributing to the ever-growing build-up of white noise.

A really good case study here is radio – the ultimate in one-way communication. In the past, radio stations would create a schedule where the music or the commentary was broadcast according to what suited them. People could listen if they wanted to and as long as sponsors were paying the bills, nothing else really mattered.

Compare that with radio now. We now know the presenters through social media, web content, live video streams, etc. Programs are released as podcast episodes to enable people to listen when it suits them. Listeners are able to interact in real time via talkback, social media pages and text messages.

Rather than simply communicating, radio stations are now engaging with their audience – actively encouraging their listeners to become involved in an on-going relationship.

How are things in your communications team? Are they still working on a comms approach that has served them well for years? Are you still delivering a whole lot of information to your stakeholders without thinking about engagement?

If so, my message is simple. Stop communicating and start engaging. Develop a contemporary engagement strategy that replaces your outdated communications plan. Start conversations and build connection instead of hitting the Send button and hoping for the best.

And if you are unsure where to start on that, check out how we can help you at Alternatively, please reach out to me via LinkedIn or set up a no-obligation chat at

Please feel free to share by clicking one of the following buttons