Communication and Social Marketing

Communication and Social Marketing

Communication is the most vital ingredient in an organization. In fact, an organization cannot be conceived of without communication. It would not be wrong to claim that communication is the life-blood of an organization. Efficient communication is essential for all aspects of effective administration. Staff must be adequately and currently informed about plans, methods, schedules, problems, events and progress. It is necessary that instructions, knowledge and information be passed on for application to all concerned and that they be so clearly presented as to make misinterpretation or misunderstanding impossible. Proper and adequate communication is not just in one direction. It is two way passage. Communication must flow from the bottom to upwards, as well as from the top to down.

In an organization, there are different types of communication, each with its own sets of advantages and disadvantages. The methods of transmitting and receiving communication are – oral (which is primarily face to face situation), written (it includes letters,  memoranda, agenda, manuals, handbooks, newspapers, magazines, etc.) and other communications (combinations of spoken words and usage of media like posters, flip charts, power-point presentations, etc.).

In the organization, communication is categorized into three sets of dimensions – downward communication (communication from superior to subordinates related to plans, programmes, procedures, rules, and may be in the form of command, suggestion, advice, seeking information, details, explanations), upward communication (it is from subordinates to superior and in the form of giving information, feedback, clarifying doubts and the like) and horizontal or lateral communication (refers to communication across departments or between colleagues in the same/similar ranks). Further, the structures of lines of communication can be formal (this kind of communication is along the lines prescribed by the organization) and informal (also called grapevine, is not along the planned lines of
interaction). All those communications – downward, upward, and horizontal, which organization provides for in order to achieve organizational objectives are formal communications. Generally, when formal/ informal interactions take place between employees, they develop their own communication system called the informal communication. Now-a-days, we have faster means of communication in the form of computer aided communication, say, emails, internet (intranet as well as extranet), videoconferencing and so on.

Let us now briefly discuss current issues in communication with regard to organizational behaviour, which should be kept in mind by the administrators/ managers. Selective perception plays a crucial role in sending and understanding messages and meanings.

Researches show that gender (women use language to create connection while men use it to emphasize status and power), cultural contexts (there may be cultural barriers because of interaction between people coming from high context cultures that rely heavily on nonverbal and subtle situational cues in communication and those from low context cultures that rely heavily on words to convey meaning in communication), emotions and feelings (diffuse ability to receive message in a barrier free state) and similar factors may influence effective communication. The manager should choose adequate channels of communication as per the requirement such as memos, letters, bulletins, emails, telephone conversations, face to face interactions, etc. You would be studying different contours of communication in organizational functioning in social marketing, conflict management, public relations, fund raising and so on. Let us now briefly look at the concept and relevance of social marketing.

Social Marketing (SM) is the planning and implementation of programs designed to bring about social change using concepts from commercial marketing. Kotler (1975) defines social marketing as the design, implementation, and control of programmes seeking to increase the acceptability of a social idea or practice in a target group(s). It utilizes concepts of market segmentation, consumer research, idea configuration, communication, facilitation, incentives, and exchange theory to maximize target group response.

Andreasen (1995) defines social marketing as the application of commercial marketing technologies to the analysis, planning, execution, and evaluation of programmes designed to influence the voluntary behavior of target audiences in order to improve their personal
welfare and that of their society.

The principles of social marketing can be arranged in five Ps, which are as follows:

Product unlike commercial marketing where product is a tangible item, here, in SM, product is the behaviour or idea that the campaign planners would like the targeted individuals/ consumers to adopt. The product can be an action (e.g., immunizing children) or material item (e.g., condoms).

Price includes the costs associated with ‘buying’ the product, which is sum total of economic cost as well as psychological cost (embarrassment, say, in buying condoms for safe sex) and social cost (e.g., possibility of losing face).

Place comprises of the distribution channels used to make the product available to target audiences. When the product is a physical item, it must be easily obtainable by consumers (e.g. condoms available at paan-shops). In the case of product being an idea, say, education of girl child, it must be socially available and supported within the consumers’ social sphere.

Promotion includes the efforts taken to ensure that the target audience is aware of the campaign. These publicity efforts should be designed to cultivate positive attitudes and intentions regarding the product that pave the way for behavior change.

Positioning means that the product must be positioned in such a way as to maximize benefits and minimize costs. Positioning is a psychological construct that involves the location of the product relative to other products and activities with which it competes. For
instance, using condom would bring peace of mind plus freedom from STIs/HIV and pregnancy while not using it would lead to many health consequences with social and psychological underpinnings.