Communications (by) Design


As many of you know Eastwick recently helped launch a sister company, SocialxDesign – and I have a new business card to prove it. That card bears a title we’ve never seen before – one that struck us “right” from the moment Giovanni, a social pioneer who co-founded SxD, first said it: Communications Design. It was his immediate suggestion and the one that took.

Now: what does it mean?

Change, it seems, it our only constant, and some variant of Moore’s Law seems to apply to the accelerating rate of disruption in business communications. Wind back to the dark ages – say 1999 – and contrast to where we are now. Facebook? Twitter? Mobile apps? Unheard of, along with such innovations as always-on Internet access and use.

Today these technologies are not only integrated into the daily life of a growing percentage of the world’s population – they’ve become fundamental to culture and even our world view. They’ve changed the very way we see the way we connect, learn, and act. They’ve altered the velocity at which messages move from Point A to Point B…and from Point B to all points beyond.

What’s more, these changes have redefined the creativity and intent that fuels communications. Take a direct mail piece circa 1999. How could it possibly “go viral”? Back then, we didn’t know what we didn’t know – and the flatter, more point-to-point reality of a pre-internet world informed our attitudes toward communication and design.

Little more than a decade later, the ability for information to flow unhindered across social, mobile, and web conduits (and the probability that it will!) has changed the way organizations share information and has inspired new levels of intentionality for that sharing.

This ability – and probability – demands higher levels of openness and transparency from organizations of all types – and have empowered organizations that embrace this potential to rise as leaders. It also creates new possibilities for the speed, impact, and engagement that’s possible in communicating with large-scale audiences.

For sure, the times have been a-changing, and that brings me back to Communications Design.

The tools that allow organizations to communicate today are unprecedented in their reach and velocity. These tools and conduits disintermediate more traditional methods, and can also work in harmony with them. They put power into the hands of audiences, and they can also let audience share that power for the common good. They can “out” untruths or flawed agendas, but they can also mobilize corrections.

Used well, they can spark movements, harness the power of the crowd to create measurable waves and change.

Used ineffectively, or not at all, they can fall flat. Deliberately ignored, they open up space for adverse reactions that illustrate the ability for the crowd to find, speak, and amplify its voice in a way that can outmaneuver any responsive or retaliatory attempt to reclaim the stage. We’ve all seen the proof: Arab Spring, the incomparable BP debacle, and even the GAP’s logo gaffe show the machine at work.

“Communications Design” is about understanding and mastering this machine in a way that drives outcomes – engagement, movement, and actual change – from start to finish. Beginning with an end in mind – a measurable response or result – Communications Design identifies and maps the position, messages, conduits, and dependencies that lead to the desired results.

From inception, Communications Design assumes win-wins; today’s audiences deserve (and will accept) nothing less. What’s the information audiences need to understand? The spark or insight that will get them to engage? The benefit to them to take the next step?

Grounded in genuine understanding and framed by an understanding of relevance, Communications Design is a discipline that begins with respect for the value exchange that’s about to occur between an organization (business, government, NGO, brand) and the audiences they seek to engage. With a focus on measurable actions and results (and built upon the tools that make that measurement easier and more insight-rich than any time before), Communications Design is about achieving new levels of behavioral change through the power of intentional, goal-oriented communications strategies.

Intentional narratives that inspire measurable results: that’s the heart of the matter. What’s possible for your organization, and how will you build – and build upon – that blueprint?

We’ll explore this topic here in future posts, but in the meantime, what comes to mind when you think of Communications Design?


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Learn more about Ellen and the SocialxDesign team at socialxdesign/people