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Communication Architecture, Pt. 2

This model is a tool, but it is not a perfect one. For starters, I don’t like the name of it. And not just because it is too long and sounds a bit self-important (guilty on both accounts). No, what really bothers me is that it seems to be about communication, and so much of the world has shifted to content and conversation. Here’s the distinctions:

1. Communication tends to be static for the speaker-listener roles. Yes, it is a very broad sweeping topic, but in the world of marketing communications it has forever been a one-way communication. And now there are some tools around that allow a two-way street, but that does not mean that everything is going to be two-way. Takes movies for example. For all the hype about interactivity on Blue-ray, and the eternal promises of choose-your-own-endings, the movies that do best are created by people who know the craft and are talented at doing it. Same with television, books and plays. These one-way mediums are not going away. We’ll always have salesmen pitching, advertisers telling brand stories (of various lengths), and customer feedback. It’s that n:n category that has everyone talking (literally I suppose)…

2. Conversation has to be dynamically shifting the speaker-listener roles. Otherwise it is not a conversation, it is a monologue. And while the sales pitch needs some pitch time, it sure better have a Q&A at the end if anyone intends on actually selling something. Likewise on customer feedback. If there is no response, then the problem (and the customer) will just go away and a new problem will replace it – finding new customers and repairing a damaged reputation after they tell everyone online that you don’t listen. The good news is that the listening tools we have today are dynamic and robust. Which means we don’t have an excuse.

3. Content needs to be available on-demand. I think of this category as heavily in the Inform and Entertain modes. Information needs to be structured correctly so it can be navigated by an audience. Their experience of your content will form the brand impression. Not your delivery of it per se. Can I find out what I need to know, in the form I need it, and whenever I need it? You should be answering yes to all three of these questions. This is pull marketing. The kind that allows the user to direct the when and where. You just make sure you’ve anticipated all the questions, all the right media, and all the…oh, just put everything everywhere just to be safe. No, that wasn’t a joke. Don’t make me browse, unless it’s a catalog I love.

So, it will stay communication architecture. With the caveat that it covers the conversation and content paradigms that are pervasive in the halls of marketing departments and agencies today. Halls that are undergoing some tremendous changes right now.