The Communications Cycle
is a basic, proven process for producing communications
that satisfy the real needs of people participating
in a specific communication experience. It applies
to almost every communications environment and circumstance,
from the most basic two-person verbal exchange to
the most complex network or broadcast communications
involving thousands or millions of people.
The cycle begins with discovery
research, identifying and defining the information
needs and desires, issues and concerns, preferences
and priorities of the individual or groups who will
be participating in the communications.
These research findings
enable the design and production of targeted communications,
tightly focused on satisfying the real needs and desires
of the communications sponsors and participants. This
will produce a highly valuable, highly satisfying
communications experience for both.
Qualitative research using
confidential interviews and focus groups is usually
sufficient to acquire the information needed to design
effective communications, however often a quantitative
measurement is conducted in the form of a survey to
establish pre-communications baseline knowledge levels,
opinions and attitudes, etc. of the intended recipients
of the communication.
Baseline information from
a survey can then be compared with post-communications
survey findings to assess the effectiveness of the
communications in terms of improving knowledge levels
and affecting peoples' opinions, attitudes, intentions,
behaviors, etc. (See the Core-7
Measurement page for a full list.)
research is a critical step in satisfying peoples'
needs and achieving a high return on the communications
Content specialists and the
creative team (graphic designers, writers, programmers,
etc.), now in possession of the insights and understandings
provided by the research findings, are able to develop
very targeted communications (content, format, media,
etc.) which are precisely focused on satisfying peoples'
real needs. To learn more about this process, visit
Communications are created
through media, live activities or a mixed media combination
of print, video, audio, in-person meetings and events,
electronic media - teleconference, e-mail, intranet,
Internet, extranets, etc.
Soon after the communications
experience has been completed, feedback
needs to be acquired from participants (readers,
viewers, attendees, users, trainees, etc.) to learn
about their communications experience (reception,
knowledge, understanding, retention, opinions, satisfaction
levels, intentions, etc.), their post-communication
needs, desires, issues, concerns, preferences and
priorities, etc. to assess whether the communications
were effective in accomplishing their objectives.
Confidential in-depth interviews
and/or focus groups professionally conducted in-person
or by telephone can provide a good assessment of peoples'
overall communications experience and provide directional
insights. However, this information cannot be projected
to the entire population. To accurately measure and
project the level of peoples' understanding in the
entire organization (for example, their Strategic
Literacy); how widely certain opinions, attitudes
or perceptions are held; which groups in the population
have specific concerns and issues and what they are;
their levels and kinds of satisfaction, intentions
and behaviors, etc.; a quantitative survey with a
scientifically valid sample of the population and
its segments will need to be conducted.
Using the efficiencies of
telecommunications, faxback, e-mail and outbound telephone
surveys, data can be collected relatively quickly.
Communicators can now measure and know with a high
degree of precision how people have been affected
by communications and what the next steps should be.
stage of a first cycle becomes the pre-communications
stage of the second cycle. These cycles can become
a communications continuum, an ongoing pathway of
continuous improvement in communications effectiveness
and participant satisfaction.
The Core-7 Communications
Measurement Dimensions developed by
Ira Kerns, GuideStar's Managing Director and Principle
Consultant, provides essential focus points for communicators
to use in determining peoples' pre-communication needs
and assessing or measuring the effectiveness of communications
in satisfying those needs.