This week was very busy in our region as the president came to one of the community colleges in the region. It was very exciting as both my children were able to listen to his speech, the president's motorcade went by the son's school, and one of my daughter's teachers attended the speech live (they had a police escort for their school bus from the farm where they were doing scientific field work so she could attend in shoes borrowed from one of the students as she was wearing heavy boots coated with mud!).
I took the time out from my day to listen to the speech as it was telecast live on our campus. But for the second time now, I have been disappointed in one of the president's speech. Upon reflecting about my disappointment with the president's speech, I realized what the problem was. I feel as if there is a role for me to participate in the healthcare, economic, and educational discussions going on at the federal level. The White House has done a good job of setting up incoming messages. However, I feel they need to close the loop. I feel as if my messages posted on their site is just one out of a million (just like buying a lottery ticket) and it just goes into the cyber black hole. How are my posts any different than discussing my opinions with my husband as we watch the president speak. I KNOW my husband's not listening to my remarks and could care less about MY opinions. Rather, my husband would like to get HIS point across and have me agree with him. Although it took a number of years of marrige to figure it out, now I just agree with him and keep my opinions (if they are contrary) to myself.
I feel the same way with the communication system the way it currently is set up at the White House. I don't see an online community developing where there are public discussions of what others have posted, nor is there anyone facilitating these discussions online. The closest has been links to blogs where there are some discussions. Likewise, when you send an email comment, you are put on the listserv, but you don't get a message saying, "Thank-you for offering your opinion on ....(the issue, which can be electronically generated). The messages ...(explain what happens to the messages: chosen randomly to be read, all read by volunteers and passed on to policy makers, deleted the next day and not read?)." This at least allows the writer to feel like they are being heard.
Implications for others developing communication policy
As the communication technologies allow us to connect with larger networks and communities outside of our geographic location we can learn from our current administration.
Lesson 1: People want to be heard. This includes having their opinions VALIDATED even if the listener doesn't agree. "I understand what you are saying, but I don't agree," or "that's a good point, but..." Even a message that states, "We have so many comments that we may not be able to respond personally. However, be assured that we are reading your comments."
Lesson 2: Let those you are communicating with know what your processes are. How will communications be used? Who reads and responds to the communication? What are the time frames?
Lesson 3: Understand the networks. Usually, networks are based on common values and ideas. An perceived insult or snub can be very damaging, but a note of encouragment can have positive ripples through a network. Only imagine the impact had the president sent an email (even if it were a form one) to my daughter's school or teacher. This could then be forwarded through each of the students' own social networks.
Lesson 4: Don't ask for feedback unless you are going to use it. This is something marketers and researchers learn early. Related to this is make sure you are asking the right questions. I always begin with very broad questions, then narrow in on the discussion. The broad questions will help you to determine where the conversation/dialog should be steered.
Lesson 5: Understand that those who use new technologies have high expectations. It is difficult to control those within a network and someone that uses web 2.0 must prepare for those who are receiving your messages to disagree and want to give their opinions. As a result, it is important that some policy is developed on how to handle "audience" reaction.
- V Yonkers
- Education, the knowledge society, the global market all connected through technology and cross-cultural communication skills are I am all about. I hope through this blog to both guide others and travel myself across disciplines, borders, theories, languages, and cultures in order to create connections to knowledge around the world. I teach at the University level in the areas of Business, Language, Communication, and Technology.