What is ‘communication flow’ in a marketing environment?

DSM Digital School of Marketing - communication flow

Communication in a marketing environment business can involve various types of employees as well as different functional parts of the organisation. These forms of communication are called communication flows and are usually classified according to the direction of interaction. There are a number of communication flows but, in this article, we’ll discuss upward and downward communication flows.

Upward communication flow

This is an area where employees normally tread lightly and plan their communications in advance, as they know that poor communications to senior management can be severely career-limiting.

The fundamental objective of most communication in the workplace is to sell an idea. The days of the old authoritarian style of communicating, where instructions are given without informing employees of the why or wherefore are long gone.

People need to understand what is communicated in order to give their best support to it. They need to accept an idea before they will do more than simply go through the motions. If you want people to do something, you have to explain it to them so that they can understand it. You have to communicate your vision and requirements.

Some of the problems encountered when preparing information for senior management are as follows:

  • Lack of background information: senior management may not have enough background information and/or understanding of the work requirement in order to make a decision on a particular issue.
  • Administrative barriers: understanding is made more difficult because of the barriers of administrative distance. For example, the urgency of the issue or the requirement to make a decision within a certain timeframe can be lost in the communication. This is particularly acute when information destined for senior management is passed through multiple levels, each of which vet or interpret the information according to their perspective.
  • Blocked communication channels: Communication channels are so clogged that important information has a hard time making its way to its intended recipient.
  • Subjectivity: the person preparing the information provides the information that will present him/her in the most favourable light, but which does not necessarily represent the most accurate and up-to-date information required.
  • Reticence: most workers believe that problems result when they express opinions to superiors. They also consider their thoughts unwanted by inaccessible and unresponsive management.
  • Arrogance: managers who don’t think those under them know anything about management and that only they can see the big picture.
  • Denial: management may refuse to accept bad news and attempt to put a positive spin on a negative situation.
  • Extra workload: many employees may be wary of engaging in communication with senior management, particularly when they are tasked with pinpointing problems for resolution as they may be tasked with extra responsibilities when they do find the solution.

Downward communication flow

Downward communication deals chiefly with the core management functions:

  • Planning,
  • Organising,
  • Controlling, and
  • Directing the activities of the organisation. Downward communication is sent from senior management to the workforce, that is to say, those that actually carry out the tasks that result from the core management functions listed above.

Traditional organisations emphasise downward flows at the expense of the upward. Managers spend inordinate amounts of time and effort in preparing and sending messages to subordinates. They often appear little concerned over whether the messages are received and understood, and pay a high price in waste and inefficiency.

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