For those of you who think/wish social media is just a fad (and I know you’re out there), it’s time to succumb to the reality that technology has enabled our wired brains to do what they long to do – truly communicate. Easily. Repeatedly. Systematically. For too long, our development operations have been focused in a lopsided way on the imparting of information rather than on the exchanging of information. Communication is a two-way street, and never has this been as glaringly apparent as it has been since the advent of social media.
“Must have effective writing and oral communication skills.”
When we include this in our job descriptions, what is our underlying thinking? Do we want someone who writes good fundraising letters? Do we want a persuasive, effective public speaker? Do we want someone who is able to compellingly ask people for philanthropic investment? I hear you answering “yes”, “yes” and “yes!” But what is missing here?
Social media can no longer be an afterthought. We can’t just add a line to someone’s existing job description. We can’t just hire a junior part-time person or relegate this function to a volunteer. We can’t segregate this function from the centrality of everything else we’re doing to create awareness of our brand, generate interest in and understanding of our mission and ultimately engage and involve constituents who share our values.
It no longer suffices to have communication skills. We need to be communicators. In other words, it’s no longer about us – what we think, what we feel, what we do, and what we think you should think, feel and do. It’s no longer a monologue. It’s got to be a dialogue. And we need to put in place the tools that enable a flow of conversation and engagement.
What do we mean by communication? This bears dissection. It’s fundamentally a two-way process of reaching mutual understanding, in which participants not only exchange (encode-decode) information but also create and share meaning. This doesn’t happen without exceptional strategic thinking and planning. It doesn’t happen without the creation of a strong content plan. And it doesn’t happen in a vacuum, absent input (exchange, creation and sharing of meaning) from all parts of the organization – from top to bottom, from inside to outside.
Our job in hiring folks just got a bit more challenging. Yes, we need people with strong writing and presentation skills. Yet in the future we need to add something to our job requirements. We need people with strong analytic and strategic thinking and planning skills. And we need people who know how to teach others the art of conversation. It’s a learnable skill.
How do you develop a good conversation? And what part is art/what part science?