Communication Officers and Public Relations practitioners have been challenged to be the company’s headphones and not megaphones which is associated with lots of noise in their bid to pass message across the company.
Prof. Jim Macnamara was speaking to University of Nairobi students, staff and PR practitioners from Public Relations Society of Kenya, PRSK. The public lecture was jointly organized by the University of Nairobi and PRSK. The event was held on November 12, 2019 at the University of Nairobi Towers.
With over a decade experience working in the communications industry before becoming an academic at the London School of Economics, Media Department, Prof. Macnamara is widely known for his extensive research in new media and communication technologies. Prof. Macnamara urged the audience to be develop the art of active listening. He opined that communication is 50% listening and not just talking as is the practice with most people. He challenged communication experts to embrace information technology tools like artificial intelligence, internet of things, data science, data analytics, machine learning which will be key in helping them analyze massive amounts of data, get insights and hence provide sufficient evidence to the management to aid decision making process.
He gave an example of previous research done for one of the insurance companies in the United Kingdome and how he was able to help turn company’s most critic clients to most devout clients by doing a few things like calling the disgruntled customers, changing a few things in the company. All these was possible courtesy of the research that had been done previous making use of artificial intelligence. The result was improved revenue for the insurance company. Prof. Macnarama urged communication and PR practitioners to develop ways of having a two-way communication as opposed to one way communication via storytelling, notices, memos, press releases, text messages, social media posts, websites, annual reports among others.
“You need to develop listening skills. Not listening has led to deaths in hospitals as doctors don’t listen to their patients. If patient complaints are not resolved immediately by Doctors, patients die in the process,” he said. He pointed out that Brexit is happening partly because the government has not been keen to listen to the citizens. Not listening leads to decline or collapse of trust, decline of stakeholder loyalty, decline of stakeholder engagement, increase in the number of dissents and rise of the alternative voices.
“Communicators are the megaphones across the company. We apply the messages being passed across. I urge you to be the headphones, not megaphones,” he said.
Over the recent years, bloggers and influencers have been keen to trend hashtags over social media sites like Twitter. Prof. Macnamara urged PR practitioners to develop trust and integrity. Doing the right thing. “Trust is key for PR practitioners. Act responsibly. Develop trust and your company will be there for long. Shortcuts don’t last. Avoid shortcuts. Avoid influencers who tweet non truths and half-truths. I urge journalists in the house to fact-check social media posts for integrity,” he said.