Sometimes, communication is not about coordinating stakeholder action, but about inspiring stakeholders to take action of their own accord. This kind of communication is almost always about capturing hearts and minds—the mobilization and alignment of stakeholders with the achievement of the project outcomes. One of the key questions here is who is the right person, who is best positioned to influence and inspire action?
‘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?
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?