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Communications Cycle

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.

1. Pre-Communication Research and Measurement
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.)

This pre-communications research is a critical step in satisfying peoples' needs and achieving a high return on the communications investment.

2. Design and Production of Measurable 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 the Design and Production pages.

3. The Communications Experience
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.

4. Post-Communications Feedback, Research and Measurement
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.

The post-communications 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.

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