Business communication is used to
- promote a product, service, or organization;
- relay information within a business;
- function as an official statement from a company.
Business communication covers a range of topics such as
- brand management,
- customer relations,
- consumer behavior,
- public relations,
- corporate communication,
- community engagement,
- reputation management,
- interpersonal communication,
- employee engagement, and
- event management.
It is closely related to the fields of professional communication and technical communication.
A lot of your business communication will take place in a face-to-face format, such as meetings and conferences, so it’s important to refine your “in person” skills. Part of communicating effectively involves being aware of nonverbal cues, such as body language. When you have a conversation with people in person, your body language and facial expressions will communicate a particular attitude or tone to those around you. Be mindful of your listening skills as well. A lot of business communication involves listening for directives and being able to keep up with fast-paced discussions.
The Internet has transformed the way that people communicate in the business world. Email is a commonly preferred method of communication in the workplace because people can send mass messages at one time. Emailing enhances efficiency because it is quick to send and quick to respond to, and you can even include attachments that are essential to the subject being discussed in the email conversation. Email conversations can be between two or more people, and these types of discussions often replace the need for formal meetings since decisions can be made in this forum.
Teleconferencing is another method of business communication that is commonly employed in the workplace. Communicating through a telephone conferencing system is an effective way of conducting business when people are not able to attend a meeting in person. Attending a meeting via teleconference also saves people from accumulating travel expenses since they can call into the teleconference right from their office.
Video conferencing is similar to teleconferencing in that the attendees do not have to travel anywhere to participate in the meeting. But unlike teleconferencing, a video conference allows you to see people through a TV screen or computer monitor. Furthermore, this is a two-way process, so all participants can see each other. Video conferencing requires the use of special video equipment, so you may need to check with your technology department to determine if it is something your company is capable of doing.
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is a methodology and group of technologies for the delivery of voice communications and multimedia sessions over Internet Protocol (IP) networks, such as the Internet. Other terms commonly associated with VoIP are IP telephony, Internet telephony, voice over broadband (VoBB), broadband telephony, IP communications, and broadband phone service.
The term Internet telephony specifically refers to the provisioning of communications services (voice, fax, SMS, voice-messaging) over the public Internet, rather than via the public switched telephone network (PSTN). The steps and principles involved in originating VoIP telephone calls are similar to traditional digital telephony and involve signaling, channel setup, digitization of the analog voice signals, and encoding. Instead of being transmitted over a circuit-switched network, however, the digital information is packetized, and transmission occurs as Internet Protocol (IP) packets over a packet-switched network. Such transmission entails careful considerations about resource management different from time-division multiplexing (TDM) networks.
In simple terms, a VoIP service allows you to use your broadband (high-speed) connection to place telephone calls over the Internet. It is not difficult to see how this is rocking the telecom industry to the core.
Two things have made traditional telephone service providers like AT&T and Bell so powerful. Their monopoly over local telephone services, and their traditional stranglehold on lucrative and usually over-priced "long distance" services. Both of these captive markets have been seriously eroded over the last few years, as the reality of VoIP has started to sink in.
In anticipation of the revolution that is now upon us, most aspects of telephone service have gradually been opened up to competition. Most of us now have a choice of providers for both local and long distance telephone service. And the biggest reason for the new competitive environment is the recognition that the widespread adoption of VoIP is inevitable.
VoIP has been developing slowly and early implementations allowed computer users to talk to each other through their computers. This was only feasible if you had a voice-enabled computer, a reliable and stable internet connection, and a software program installed on your computer that made it all work.
The advantage of this computer-to-computer communication was that you could completely bypass the traditional telephone system and talk to anyone in the world free of charge -- as long as they had a similar setup to yours. But the disadvantages of communicating this way were also obvious. You could only communicate this way using your computer. You were completely dependent on often unstable dial-up internet connections. And the person at the other end of the conversation had to also be "online" with a voice-enabled computer.
Today's versions of VoIP have left these problems in the past. Two things were required to make VoIP technology feasible on a large scale basis, and both of these things have now been realized.
First, broadband internet service has been widely adopted. This makes it possible to have stable internet connections that are "always on". Second, the industry has developed a simple, inexpensive method of integrating the IP network (the internet) with the traditional telephone system. This allows a user of VoIP to use his or her own telephone to call anyone else in the world who has a traditional telephone connection.
This is where we are today. As traditional telecom companies like AT&T, Bell, Qwest, and SBC develop their own implementations of VoIP technology the way has been opened up for a myriad of choices for consumers. Today's VoIP allows anyone with a broadband internet connection to place calls to anyone with an ordinary telephone connection, anywhere in the world.
The major advantages of VoIP are lower cost, and greater flexibility with no significant decrease in voice quality. First, a VoIP subscriber does not need a traditional phone line. Instead, you are assigned a phone number by your VoIP provider. Prices for these numbers can be as low as $9 usd per month.
Second, most VoIP subscribers will purchase a "bundle" of services that includes unlimited incoming calls and unlimited long distance calls to anyone within a defined geographic area. For instance, VoIP unlimited calling plans to anyone in the USA or Canada start at around $20 per month.
Third, most VoIP service providers offer free bundled features that most traditional telephone companies charge for. These include free voicemail, call forwarding, caller ID, call waiting, call waiting ID, 3 way calling, speed dialing, and many more of the services that the traditional companies are constantly trying to sell you.
Another significant advantage is the flexibility and portability of VoIP phone service. With VoIP your personal telephone number is programmed into the converter that acts as a bridge between your internet connection and your regular telephone.
This has several important advantages. As already mentioned you do not need an actual land line. Instead your telephone number is assigned to your converter (not to your geographic land line). So you can take your converter with you anywhere in the world, plug it into any available broadband connection, and immediately start using your regular number to make and receive calls.
This flexibility also lets you choose a number in an area code where most of your long distance calls originate. For instance, if many of your friends, family, business associates or customers are calling from a specific city that traditionally involved a long distance call for them, you could choose a number in that area code and immediately turn all their calls to you into local (free) calls for them.
The advantages of VoIP are many, and the savings can be very significant. So it is no wonder that VoIP has become the hottest telecom technology of the decade. Informed consumers and businesses around the world are adopting this technology at a phenomenal rate.
Email remains the most popular communication method. Users typically use desktop software to receive, read and respond to messages. Some users use web-based mail and manage messages in a web browser like Internet Explorer. The downfall to email communication is that anyone can send email messages to anyone else if they have (or guess) the correct email address. This system's Achilles heel is its simplicity and universal popularity.
Email accounts are often burdened by spam or unsolicited email. Despite software developers having created complex spam filters and legislators having introduced new anti-spam legislation, the problem persists and spam continues to burden email as a messaging medium.
Instant messaging allows users to "chat" in real time. Users can send text messages to anyone online and receive instant replies if the user is also online. The "instant" fad gave way to parental fears as children made "friends" online. With no way to confirm if "friends" are who they represent themselves to be, and multiple security holes, instant messaging has taken a back seat in internet communication.
Online journals and daily diaries have taken hold. Some blogs are interactive, allowing users to respond and comment on posts. Locating topic-specific blogs that provide relevant and interesting content on a daily basis can be a challenge. The nature of a blog is to contain fresh public content. As our lives become more complicated blogs are often abandoned, as they require constant updating.
RSS is the messaging medium that shows genuine promise as a means to communicate. RSS files are produced as XML files and are designed to provide content summaries of news or information. The biggest benefit to RSS is that it does not have the spam issues inherent to email; users opt-in to the RSS feeds that interest them.
A forum is an online discussion group. Forums can be newsgroups, or they can be web-based discussion groups. Forums have proven themselves as valuable business resources - often creating communities of customers helping customers. Without moderation and oversight they can potentially create an unfriendly environment.
Liststervs are mailing list programs for communicating with other people who have subscribed to the same list. Using e-mail, you can participate in listservs pertaining to your topics of interest. When you submit a message to the server, your message is relayed to all on the listserv. You receive messages from other participants via e-mail.
Internet communication is intrinsically tied to the hardware options available. Wireless technology has accelerated the development of messaging software, opening the market to a dizzying array of devices for web access. Where we were once tied to a keyboard and mouse, we will soon be navigating the web with our voices from a moving automobile, or browsing via screens in our eyewear, with tiny cameras reading our eye movements to move the cursor and make selections. Our interactive conversations will include more and more participants at once. Evaluating the many options and choosing what works best for you is the first step to effectively communicating on the web.
Business Communication - Information Flow
One of the most serious barriers that a growing company faces is to resolve the problem of information flow – upwards, downwards, and sideways which is often grandly termed communication. As the effectiveness of communication declines, staff (and other stakeholders) become:
- Less clear about what is expected of them;
- Less sure about exactly what is going on throughout the company;
- More suspicious of motives and less willing to accept change;
- Poorer quality decision makers;
- More likely to become departmentally rather than company minded with an emphasis on NIH (Not invented here);
- More inward looking and more task orientated.
The combination of these factors means that policy implementation and task completion slows – or in the worst cases stops, labour turnover, absenteeism, disciplinary problems go up, productivity goes down.
Research suggests that most supervisory staff and management have a clear, but limited view of communication. This is to tell stakeholders what they (that is supervisors/ managers) want them to hear – and not to create a series of functional two way channels which improve reactivity within the enterprise, lead to much better decision making, and create enhanced shared values for all stakeholders. There is no single magic component – managers cannot wave a wand and say “let there be communication” - because a business is made up of a complex interaction of individuals both within and outside the enterprise, there are many communication channels, and effective communication will comprise their interaction. As with all Ibis suggestions, we see the creation of this improved communication system as incremental – companies can steadily introduce more and more components, ensure that they work, and then move on to others.
- All research shows that stakeholders like to be informed – they may not take in the information, but respond with trust to the enterprise that is trusting them with the information. A useful analogy is with Freedom of Information legislation – think about making communication inclusive rather than exclusive.
- Individuals are very poor at separating wheat from chaff in information, which leads to information overload for some – unless the system is properly planned.
- Individuals differ in the way that they take in information – some require voice (and individual contact), others require image while others prefer print.
- The broader the range of communication channels, the better the overall information that individuals within the enterprise will receive.
- Libraries have not evolved in the way they work by accident. Most of have an idea that relevant information existed and go looking for it. Make sure that the information is available in an organised and accessible way – a key feature of an effective management information system.
- Few individuals take in all information at one presentation. The analogy to advertising messages is also relevant to information – each individual will require a minimum of messages to receive the underlying information.
- Advertising has another lesson for communication – make sure that everything that is communicated is legal, decent and honest. You can sell anything once – to employees and other stakeholders – but once you have done this wrongly – your communication system will never be trusted again.
- Commitment from the top, like all others aspects of company management is essential. Employees will become rapidly aware if senior management words are not linked to their deeds.
Business Communication - Marketing
For a start-up, a limited operating budget can be a big drawback for marketing and introducing the new business into the market. With no funds available for advertising or any promotional activities, the new entrepreneur must make use of publicity tools which can give the business the much needed exposure at relatively no cost.
One of the most effective tool for the least amount of money in marketing a business is to use the press to talk positively about the business. It also gives the business a touch of credibility and even projects a high professional image.
Having a business mentioned in the media is one of the best ways to gain exposure for products or services and some businesses run a marketing campaign on just media mentions. It should be at the top of the marketing plan of every business.
Great Businesses were planned that way!
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