The X factor in Public Relations (PR) is a combination of empathic listening and storytelling that can excite the audience and produces a beneficial reaction for the interests of all the players involved in the conversation. This is the conclusion I draw from the 130 opinions of PR professionals gathered during the month of August on Twitter through the hashtag
#FactorXComunicación and published in a previous post on this blog. It was about looking for the skill that distinguishes the communicator and gives relevance to their role in the management of organizations.
Listening has been the most quoted term. It often appears linked to empathy. In fact, purely physically listening is of no use if the listener, in the first place, does not feel listened to (active listening), and if the speaker does not manage to connect with their emotions (empathic listening), in a deeper level. Empathic listening, putting oneself in the other’s place, identifying their emotions and understanding their reasons, is essential to guarantee success in a communication process.
It is about listening to people and their context. Today we talk about the contextual leader because of the need to quickly decode the movements that occur in the environment and anticipate the impact they will have on the organization. The obsession about trends responds to this need to identify the currents that drive social behavior. In the case of the communicator, it is essential that you recognize those that may influence the perception and reputation of your organization. In the field of commercial communication and marketing, the most relevant trends are those that anticipate consumer behavior.
The best possible content for a communication process is a story, a story in which both parties feel involved. The narrative paradigm of Walter Fisher holds that humans are storytellers and that values, emotions and aesthetic considerations are based on our beliefs and behaviors. In the opinion of the North American academic, «when the narrations have fidelity, they constitute good reasons for a person to maintain a belief«.
Fisher also refers to the central role played by coherence and fidelity in the stories we tell. When approaching the first one, it establishes three types: structural, material and characters. Structural coherence means that the story flows effectively. Material coherence measures the congruence between a story and others that are related to it, that is, the story within other stories that provide context. And the coherence of the characters appeals to their credibility. Fidelity, in turn, demands rigor in the narration of the facts.
Consistancy and credibility are terms that appear frequently in the search for the
#FactorXComunicación made between August 1 and 27. Both are attributes of trust, which is one of the fundamental outcomes that a communicator must generate. In fact, their mission is to create safe (trusted) spaces for organizations to hold conversations with their stakeholders. Authentic stories are the central contents of such conversations.
The stories are full of reasons, but they mobilize the interlocutors more through emotions. The communication is humanized to unfold on an emotional side. The ability of the communicator consists in generating those emotions and channeling them towards their crystallization in decisions. Neither listening for listening, nor speaking for speaking, nor telling stories for telling stories, the communicator looks for a positive reaction for his organization.
What do we communicate? The stories, the information we transmit, the messages, pursue a legitimate purpose that must be connected with the objectives of the organization. The most effective communication actions are those that manage to connect the results in the short term with the purpose of the entity, which always works in the long term. The function has to create sustainable value, although it is expected to respond to the challenges that arise in the raging present.
Although the appeal to the results has been a common denominator, in the survey I have registered few references to the metrics. One of the great challenges of communication, especially in the corporate sphere (one that reaches the whole of the organization and that, by its nature, is usually located in the territory of intangibles), is to demonstrate its contribution to the P&L , be it of the type. In the case of a company, the value of communication must be perceived and demonstrated, whose strategy must be completely aligned with the collective objectives.
Given the demand for results in the present, a trend exacerbated by the economic crisis in the last ten years, one of the skills of the communicator is to arbitrate between the short and medium term, and the long term. Your decisions need to have an impact on tangible results. Now, given that we move in the field of emotions, this impact can not be measured only with financial or operational parameters, but it must also consider indicators related to trust, relevance and reputation.
Communication seeks the positive impact not only in its organization, but also in the society to which it indirectly serves. Here is the social responsibility of the communicator: promote, articulate and generate content for social dialogue, essential in an increasingly diverse society. A society, if asked what the most important «X factor» for its development is, would probably answer that it is communication.
This profession must contribute to humanizing the environment in which it operates. For this you have to adhere to some values. The communicators who have contributed their opinion to # FactorXComunicación cite humility, transparency and authenticity. Humility is essential to generate empathy. Transparency is a growing demand after decades of obscurantism. And authenticity is, perhaps, the value most demanded by the abundance of falsehood. In the same way that the profusion of lies has turned truth into a strategy of communication rather than a requirement, the copiousness of fakes has placed authenticity as one of the best ways to succeed in communication.
This profession can not be limited to navigating superficiality, it has to enter into social dynamics and be involved in the conversations that are generated around the great challenges of Humanity. We have to be engines more than wings in the processes of business and social transformation that has driven the digitalization.
I miss the creativity in the answers. Although timidly, innovation does appear. In my modest opinion, communicators have to be more creative in order to capture attention, differentiate our messages and stories and arouse the positive emotions of increasingly individual audiences.
After all, our pending issue is to better tell the story of our own function / profession. Let’s inject it with the
Note: I sincerely thank all of the communicators who have shared their opinions on the # FactorXComunicación and their contribution to a conversation whose purpose is to elevate our profession.