ICC2014 Observation: Too Many Communication Silos

Breaking down Silos

Breaking down Silos

 I think we’re alone now
There doesn’t seem to be anyone around
I think we’re alone now
The beating of our hearts is the only sound

– Tommy James and the Shondells

I actually have two big ticket observations and “aha” moments from Intelligent Content Conference 2014, but I’m only going to share one today since it’s fairly straightforward and doesn’t require me opening up a graphics program. My observation: the Communications Industry of today is terribly fractured, and it’s hurting companies and weakening the professional credibility of anyone who claims to be in sales/marketing, customer service, technical communications, or public relations.

There are many possible reasons on why Comms is fractured. One of the likely reasons is the fact that most companies divide out communications by operational area, so unless you’re pretty near the top of the food chain, it’s unlikely that tech comms gets to speak with public relations, except during a crisis.  In addition, the supporting professional associations don’t really help. Marketers join marketing associations, while technical communicators and PR folks head to their respective groups. And lastly, the people associated with each group often don’t really like each other.

The outcome of the professional fracturing is that there’s very little information sharing occurring, so professionals in each industry only operate with about 33% of the info they really need. The fracturing has helped erect the silos between the communicators and continues to reinforce them, because senior leaders (owners, CEOs, CXO-type people) aren’t hearing the value of joined-up communications and thus aren’t forcing their direct reports to bring the functions together.

Why do organizational leaders allow this to happen? I honestly don’t know. This question gets dumped into the head-scratching bucket along with “why don’t company leaders obsess over really satisfying customer needs” and creating a great experience. Or, “why don’t we just listen to the customers?” Or,  “what’s the meaning of life?” (Sorry, I figured if I was throwing out unanswerable stuff then I should go big…moving on …)

To regroup: the professionals in the industry aren’t on the same hymn sheet and this means they don’t have all the information they need to be really effective at their jobs and at winning senior-level arguments. This, combined with breaking up comms into separate groups, creates huge silos that hurt the companies these professionals want to help.

Companies get hurt because these silos keep them from effectively communicating with their potential and actual customers before, during and after purchase. Who honestly is shocked that customer experiences are so terrible when the people in charge of talking to the customers and the ones responsible for solving their problems rarely spend time together and the people who manage them rarely hear or look at the big picture?

The silos also hurt company brand equity because the groups are not using the most effective tools on the market. Communicators should unite to ensure that SharePoint is never used again the tools CIOs buy really help them make their content intelligent. The communicators can save time and money and the company can produce better content at a faster rate.

To be honest, my observations from ICC2014 were more basic than than these summarized points. The observation was hearing the same comment repeated over and over again: “I didn’t know much about X until now; it’s interesting and something I want to learn more about.” The rest concerned just thinking about how remarkable it is that in this day and age these professionals were so far apart. But, at least they’re together now … and in the future.

I’m sure the marketers who attended the conference are more savvy about content now then before they attended; and communicators are more aware of the awareness/ sales side of the business. If they’re not, then they just weren’t listening – which would have been a shame since the overall success of their companies, and ultimately their careers, will depend on better understanding all aspects of customer communications rather than remaining in their specialized silos.

Al Martine

A former non-profit fundraiser and strategy \ change management consultant and now he's the head of TechWhirl Janitorial Services. If it's going well or poorly with TechWhirl's websites he's probably the one to thank or blame. You can connect with Al through his Google + page.

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