In a previous NoCabulary posts, we called out the distinction between publics and audiences and pointed out that an audience is a group of people we tend to communicate at or to, while a public is a group of people we tend to communicate with. We challenged leaders to begin talking and thinking in terms of interaction with publics rather than delivery of messages to target audiences.
We also defined a public as one or more people who share common interest in a given issue — which begs the question: What the heck is an issue?
For this NoCabulary lesson, we’ll define that term, as well as a related (and in our opinion, often over-used) word, crisis, in context of CBL.
One of the most important questions a Communication-Based Leader can ask is, who am I communicating with? Knowing the answer to this question builds on the CBL Truth that leadership is about relationships. This takes us in turn to the second most important question for a CBL leader: What am I communicating about?
The things we are communicating about are our issues. They come in one of three forms: an enduring Topic; an Event imposed on a us; or an Action we will initiate. (An an easy-to-remember acronym for this is TEA!)
Enduring topics linger over time, often manifesting as events and actions. Examples include noise or traffic congestion created by an organization that distract, inconvenience, or in some way of concern to a Key Public. Events and actions will often emerge from enduring topics.
Events imposed on an organization can include safety or environmental mishaps, shifts in the economy (whether good or bad!), or changes in government regulations.
Actions an organization will initiate might include expansion of facilities or increased hiring due to economic growth as well as shutdowns or layoffs when the economy takes a downturn.
In either case, knowing who we are communicating with (our publics) and what we are communicating about (our issues) helps leaders identify and prioritize Key Publics and Key Issues, and tailor engagement goals, engagement strategies, objectives, and tactics for each of them.
This brings us to the second NoCabulary term we’ll introduce in this Hard NoCs post: crisis!
In our experience, crisis has become a term reflexively used to describe nearly any disruptive issue that requires a lot of time or effort, particularly if the issue is an event imposed on an organization unexpectedly. In other words, the word crisis often describes things that become a distraction or disrupt a plan.
This can result in an organization that remains in near perpetual “crisis mode”, which can hinder a leader’s ability to look up and out over the horizon and generally makes for an unpleasant place to work.
In context of CBL, we use the term crisis selectively and specifically to mean an issue that results in unwanted change being imposed on an organization from the outside in.
Leaders and organizations that practice effective CBL and use it to prioritize and strengthen relationships with Key Publics are better able to look out over the horizon, anticipate issues that may result in unwanted change, and address them before they become a crisis.
To learn more about how leaders can use CBL to help their organizations be preactive so crises can be anticipated and either prevented or mitigated, continue to follow us here ath the Blog of Hard NoCs. In upcoming posts, we’ll explore the Truths and Principles of CB in depth, including timeliness, accuracy, transparency, and credibility, and ways to develop them in ways that strengthen trust and prevent organizations from having unwanted change imposed on them from the outside-in — or help leaders manage that change when it can’t be avoided.
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Cliff holds a PhD in organization and management with a specialization in leadership. A U.S. Marine Corps veteran, he completed operational deployments to Fallujah, Iraq and Kandahar and Helmand, Afghanistan. He has led multi-national and inter-agency teams including approximately one year on loan from the Corps as Director of Policy, Planning, and Outreach for the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs. He also directly advised the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on public and media engagement regarding national security matters for two years as Special Assistant for Public Communication. Today he puts that experience to work helping people become the kind of leaders they would want to follow.