On planning communication and PR, one often follows certain steps – believing that the consumer can be “read” and thus manipulated. Here’s a more holistic way of planning communications in the 21st century.
(I wrote these words sometime in 2008)
Mikkel’s Diamond – a structured postmodernistic model for communicationsanalysis
The development towards the fragmented world, is also seen in the newest theories about analyzing and planning communication. Previously people used the socalled modernistic view: that a Text can find it’s target group precisely, or that one can analyze an organization by the Texts it transmits or emits, if one follows a number of certain and chronological steps of analysis.
The advantage in this cookiecutter approach is that it is easy to use and doesn’t require independent thinking the disadvantage is that it’s difficult to adjust to the exact situation or Text.
(a “Text” with capital initial, is in this sense any form of communication, but typical it’s advertisements, brochures or webpages. A Text can both contain text, (words and sentences), pictures and diagrams or just one of those.)
The last few years, communication theory has turned towards the socalled postmodern view: that Texts are created and analyzed from tools made adhoc for the situation. The advantage is then a great flexibility in each case, but on the other hand it requires a communications planner with great survey skills and an asserted approach.
At the universities (at least here in Denmark, Europe) the holistic and postmodern view of communication has long been pervasive. Analysis and planning is no longer a set of structured rules grounded in theory, but rather one great check list, which one can cherrypick in or add new items to, as one desires. The postmodern view of communication is basically that everything can and should be interpreted and adjusted to the individual situation: that one makes ones own rules.
A postmodern approach is however quite difficult to use in reality, especially when it’s used in the field for a client. Businesses are often very systemized. and bosses aren’t always great at thinking out of the box therefore a more logical approach can be neccesary.
A practical model of communicationsanalysis
I have therefore made a communications view which i call structured postmodernism. The idea is that while the flexibility of the postmodernity is attained, a seemingly chronological approach is used which resemble “real life” practice. Below I will go through a structured postmodern model that I made, which is a revision of a purely postmodern model. (“The Diamond”, made by Smedegaard & Andersen, my former teachers at University of Southern Denmark)
You can use the model, Mikkel’s Diamond, as an inspiration to produce or help to analyze various Texts. A model for communications planning is very neccessary when several people are cooperating on a Text or a campaign, but even when working alone, a written model is good for keeping a bird’s eye view of the many elements. Especially the first part of Mikkel’s Diamond is also good for analyzing a business’ or a company’s strengths and surroundings a form of advanced SWOT analysis. Mikkel’s Diamond can both be used chronologically or in random sequence and it can and should be changed and adjusted at any time, since it’s this flexibility that is it’s greatest advantage.
The Field deals with what we already know, the existing. It’s divided in Primary, Secondary and Tertiary, according to what’s closest to the transmitter of the communication in the current case. The Field is about mapping the situation in which the Text is produced, and this part can be used to map out one self and one’s surrounding world, a kind of SWOT.
Then comes the Text, which deals with what we will create, the not yet existing. It is divided in Genre, Design and Language, and deals with the Text’s actual design and content.
Last comes the practical realization: the execution and evaluation: how is the Text produced and distributed and how does one investigate whether it is a success? Below I explain each part note that it’s merely examples and not a complete list:
Primary Field this covers transmitter or sender, communications planner, competitors, customers, recipients, target groups and other near interests as well as the interpersonal relationships between them. It also covers their resources (economy, knowledge, labor, abilities, etc), existing market conditions, intentions and ideologies.
Secondary Field this covers the product which the communication is about. Both the physical charateristics like abilities, market shares and sales numbers, as well as the metaphysical like the notions that the target group or the surrounding world has about it, as well as the larger context in which the product belongs.
Tertiary Field this covers societal changes, ethical problems, judicial conditions, or markets in a larget context.
(It’s important to remember that what in one case belongs to the tertiary Field, may in another belong to the secondary or tertiary Field, or not present (relevant) at all. Always use your reason and judgement)
Text Genre a genre is a certain combination of expressions: a certain phrasing, layout, visual feature. Well known genres are “brochure”, “testimonial”, “newspaper ad”, or “obituary”.
Text Design the design is the visual realization: where are elements placed, what colors are used, what elements are most noticable/salient?
Text Language the language is the textual expression, words and sentences: personal or impersonal language? Use of Irony? Dynamic or static language? Pathos, ethos or logos?
(It’s important to remember that often the Text’s Genre, Design and Language are closely related but certainly not always. For example when a media resembles another, this is called remediation)
Execution this covers the realization: project planning, media and distribution channel, campaign period and resources for distribution. (money, manpower, knowledge, accomodation)
Evaluation This covers any kind of test, both before and after the launch. Before, the planner investigates whether his/her presumptions about the target group is correct. After, he/she investigates whether the Text or campaign had the desired effect, in order to plan the next one.