‘Communication as persuasion’ attempts to change the positions of stakeholders and align them with the aims of the project. In these projects, the resistance to the change is often high, and the agendas of the different stakeholder groups varied. Neither marketing nor ‘communication to inspire action’ is sufficient.
Communication as marketing is not designed to create actions or to sell a specific solution, but to promote the project. Here the important questions are around what can we do that is likely to be well-received by those stakeholders that matter, and how will this support the long-term positive reception of the project and its outcomes?
From our interviews with project managers, and the stories they tell us, we have identified six generic communication purposes. The ‘six-whys’ are discussed in a series of blogs. In this one, the focus is on communication as information-seeking.
Communication as information-seeking
In information-seeking, the ‘who,’ ‘what,’ and ‘how’ questions are critical. Who should we be speaking to about what, and most importantly, who has the authority and expertise to answer the questions. This demands an excellent understanding of the stakeholders’ sources of power and careful thought on how to categorize and group stakeholders for the consultation process.
The PMI process assumes that the primary purpose of communications is to ensure the project provides relevant, accurate, timely, and consistent project information to all the appropriate project stakeholders. This is a good starting point, but there are other reasons for communicating with our stakeholders. For communication to become purposeful, it is important that these are understood if we are to have any chance of formulating the right communications strategy. Aside from the four communication questions—what, when, who, and how—to truly understand the purpose of communication, we must, of course, ask one further overarching question: Why?