What gets people engaged? What keeps them engaged? And what is the role of communications?

Years ago, a research report entitled, “Communications as Engagement: A Communications Strategy for Revitalization,” commissioned by the Rockefeller Foundation under its The Common Enterprise initiative, came to the understanding that:

…communications-far from being just another way to spotlight the accomplishments of revitalization-is the essence of revitalization. Without communications-properly understood as dialogue, connection, and engagement in the process of being a citizen and living in a community-there is no revitalization.

This concept rang so true for me, based on my own experience in community development, that I applied it to the formulation of an internal communications strategy for the foundation I was working at.

For me, the best things that took place in the course of village revitalization (and later, corporate transformation), just seemed to happen, almost despite all the analysis and planning, as important as that preparation had been. And the greatest “successes” nearly always involved a rich and vital environment of interlocking spheres or centers of communication-most completely apart from any “official chain of command.”

Seems to me there are four overarching touchpoints common to virtually every level of communications as engagement, and it’s been helpful for me to visualize them as the four cardinal points of a compass that help to center communications in a particular context and provide practical direction in the face of specific challenges. [And yes, potential similarities to the Medicine Wheel have not escaped me, but let’s hold that thought for future reflections.]

So here they are:

"Cardinal Directions of Communications for Engagement"

With a shared and clear, yet ever-evolving, sense of place, sense of journey, sense of role and sense of challenge, a team, a community, or a company gains resilience in the face of dramatic, ongoing change.

So over the course of the next several entries, I’ll explore these cardinal compass points and how they can provide guidance in addressing the various forces of fragmentation that can prevent a team, community or company from steering through times of change.