So far, 27 people were 300,000 km away – twelve of them were on foot and motorized on the moon. Survival was ensured by the Lunar Module and the A7L spacesuit (the seventh and fireproof version of the Pressure Suit Assembly (PSA) of the Apollo missions). In an environment that makes survival impossible without special equipment, people must carry all the necessities of life – the air to breathe, the mandatory pressure balance, air conditioning for the required temperature, supply, and disposal units, and all other necessary functions for the time when they cannot leave the suit. At the same time, freedom of movement, a panoramic view, and the exchange of data should be maintained. Even if business life does not seem so threatening to life, particular basic needs should also be ensured.
The workforce’s basic needs, including executives and business partners, imply the vital building blocks to survive in the VUCA world.
Sufficient resources to be able to work are essential. These consist of all supplies, such as capable and dedicated staff, knowledge accumulated over time, an up-to-date and sound infrastructure, and sufficient financial resources. As with A7L, survival is seriously threatened if vital resources are missing.
On the Moon, ALL crucial systems must be carried. Fortunately, they weigh only one sixth of the weight measured on earth. At the same time, maneuverability must be maintained. Just as a spacesuit restricts freedom of movement, bureaucracy limits in business. Myriads provide the necessary tools. If something fails, these employees provide an interim solution until everything is up and running again. The elbowroom is narrowed down by lavish procedures for their approval. This would be equivalent to a long, stiff cable that restricts range and maneuverability on the moon. In all cases, this makes tasks much more complicated.
To get an overview of the overall system, you need comprehensive monitoring. Apollo Mission Control included 20-30 experts in Houston and hundreds in the back office. Before powerful computers could take over these roles, employees had to observe and report individual sensors’ deviations. In the past, watchdogs took on the task of collecting measured values and summarizing them in reports. Today, networked IT systems pull data from databases and feed overviews and alerts. In any case, an essential basic need is the availability of data, at any time and ANY place.
- Communication channels
To enable all participants’ interaction, data regarding status, problems, ideas, solutions, and other impressions must be exchanged. Even with the Apollo program, voice and image data were exchanged along with a stream of automatically determined digital data. Today’s fast-moving business requires many short-term decisions, which can no longer be made with traditional reporting and decision-making channels. For this, the employees who make the decisions on site need a timely supply of data.
However, the best data supply is of no use if on-site decision making is NOT ALLOWED. In hierarchical companies, this is the default mode. Surprisingly, this is also true for companies that think of themselves as customer and employee focused. There is scope for decision-making with short reaction times when excessive reporting and decision-making channels are avoided. The management team does not practice micromanagement, and the acting employees have the necessary authorizations. If Neil Armstrong had not been allowed to take over the lunar module’s manual control, the Eagle would likely have crashed on the moon.
Bottom line: The essential needs of a company are indispensable for the continuance of the business. Just as the A7L ensures astronauts’ survival on the moon, similar building blocks must be provided in the enterprise. It needs the essential resources, without the restriction of movement, with the appropriate transparency, a trouble-free exchange of data, and, above all, sufficient authority for the acting people. Bureaucratic reporting and decision-making, a traditional leadership style, and corrupted resources by exaggerated stinginess further burden unsatisfying basic needs. If the A7l were in a comparable state, astronauts would not be conducting field missions on the moon or in space. In business, a few dedicated employees ensure that the survival of the company is not threatened. The A7L, with its life-supporting functions, is the ideal metaphor for basic needs.
The dilemma with PR is the way in which publications are used to consciously affect public opinion with methods adopted from propaganda, e.g., context hiding, new word creations or exaggerations. At the beginning of the twentieth century these effective practices were abused. These crimes cast a shadow across nowadays PR efforts. The conceit that lies in all measures to better communication conceals the fact that A L L messages A L W A Y S have an effect on the target group. Each message is interpreted personally, whether it has been consciously tailored to manipulate or whether it simply produces an unintended effect. The vast amount of information generates today a noise that cannot be avoided.
Fatally, even messages that are not consciously designed can have an effect that, in extreme cases, turns against the real message. For this reason, even the biggest adversaries of opinion-making are obliged to take care of their messages – or to remain silent forever, i.e. not to send any more messages. The following points ameliorate the intended effect.
- Avoid harmful distortions
The meaning arises in the mind of the recipient by harmonizing the message with the available ideas of the mind. The word choice plays an important role, even if it cannot guarantee that the desired effect will be achieved. However, stigma words that load a message with unpleasant emotions can predictably distort the meaning.
Publications of all kinds should therefore be searched for elements that unintentionally distort the message – e.g. cultural diversity instead of multiculti; affiliation instead of solidarity; adjustment instead of destruction.
- Reinforce the proper sense
At the same time, the smart word choice underlines a message. It works through the linking with supporting thoughts. Individual words can provide the recipient with confident content that promotes the actual message.
For this reason, publications should be supported with appropriate metaphors and encouraging words – e.g. location preservation instead of job cuts; design framework instead of boundary; autonomous instead of liable.
- Synchronize all channels
Messages can also be framed with supporting multi-media contents. For this purpose a luring design is chosen – a pleasant font, well readable paragraphs, and conducive visualizations in pleasant colors. Particularly visual elements prepare messages in such a way that the consciousness adapts before the actual content is perceived to a certain interpretation that facilitates understanding and acceptance – for example through the hue of an image or the choice of a pleasant view point that triggers positive associations. In the case of sound and moving picture broadcasts, the messages are shaped by the speaking style as well as music and sounds.
The formats should be chosen to intensify the desired effect – the image of a lonesome bay instead of an overcrowded beach; healthy instead of sick; forest instead of clear cutting.
- Attentively processing feedback
Sending the message is not the end of the story. The target group or the counterpart provide afterwards an echo that shows what and how well the content has been received. A direct answer is the easiest to process – No; Not like this; I do not agree. Indirect feedback can also be understood – Yes, but …; However …; And most of all ….
Therefore, following message dissemination, the reception channels should be opened – provide occasions for discussion and comments, e.g. on/offline mailboxes, online forums or workshops.
- Positive formulation is clearer
The actual message can also be sharpened by always using positive expressions. Rejecting statements and generalizations are inaccurate because they do not say what one actually wants. – not: not, never, always, none, all, nowhere, someone, the company, the state, the world, life, etc.
For this reason, it is suggested to use descriptive statements in order to clarify the message – exactly when? Where? With whom? What’s the point? For what reason?
Bottom line: Consciously dealing with the own messages, in order to make it easier for the target group to understand, is a duty of the broadcasters. Communications are disseminated in order to achieve a certain effect. To this end, one avoids distortions, strengthens the actual message through smart preparation, exploits all multi-media possibilities, hears and processes the target group feedback and formulates statements positively. The desire to avoid this form of influence for not being suspected of manipulation calls the communication measure itself into question. It is precisely a matter of clarifying one’s view point and convincing the recipients. If this would be unethical PR, then communication would no longer be possible. The point is to prepare your message, which is justified from your own point of view, in such a way that it achieves the desired effect. If the noise is not not perceived, it is important to describe the own standpoint as simply and clearly as possible.