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Business communication is information sharing between people within and outside an organization that is performed for the commercial benefit of the organization. It can also be defined as relaying of information within a business by its people.
Business communication (or simply "communication," in a business context) encompasses topics such as marketing, brand management, customer relations, consumer behavior, advertising, 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.
Business communication can also be said to be the way employees, management and administration communicate in order to reach to their organizational goals.
Business communication is a common topic included in the curricular of Undergraduate and Master's degree programs at many colleges and universities.
Methods of business communication include:
- Web-based communication;
- Video conferencing – allows people in different locations to hold interactive meetings;
- Reports – important in documenting the activities of any department;
- Presentations – popular method of communication in all types of organizations, usually involving audiovisual material, like copies of reports, or material prepared in Microsoft PowerPoint or Adobe Flash;
- Telephone meetings – which allow for long distance speech;
- Forum boards – which allow people to instantly post information at a centralized location;
- Face-to-face meetings – which are personal and should have a written followup;
- Suggestion box – primarily for upward communication, because some people may hesitate to communicate with management directly, so they can give suggestions by drafting one and putting it in the suggestion box.
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Business communication can take place in four different directions in an organization:
- Top-down: This kind of communication takes place when the management passes the order to the subordinates to perform certain task. Usually this kind of communication takes place using circulars, newsletters, memos, e-mails, etc.
- Bottom-up: This kind of communication takes place when the subordinates submit an outcome, result, request, application, etc. Usually this kind of communication takes place using, reports, e-mails, proposals, etc.
- Lateral or horizontal: This kind of communication takes place when employees in same management level communicate. The usual mode of communication is e-mail, circular, etc.
- Diagonal communication: When different management levels communicate who have no direct reporting relationships, it is called diagonal communication. This kind of communication takes place using normal meetings, circular, notice, newsletter, etc.
- Formal communication: The communication held in systematic manner. It has rules and regulations. It get completed on decided time.
- Informal communication: The communication held in proper way and in non-systematic manner.It does not get completed on decided time of communication. Communication does not conduct any rules and regulation.
- Gesture communication: The communication takes place between peoples via symbols and signs.
Effective business communication
A two way information sharing process which involves one party sending a message that is easily understood by the receiving party. Effective communication by business managers facilitates information sharing between company employees and can substantially contribute to its commercial success.
For business communication to be effective these qualities are essential:
- Establish clear hierarchy
- Use visual communication
- Conflict management
- Consider cultural issues
- Good written communication
Face-to-face communication helps to establish a personal connection and will help to sell the product or service to the customer. These interactions can portray a whole different message than written communication as tone, pitch, and body language is observed. Information is easier to access and delivered immediately with interactions rather than waiting for an email or phone call. Conflicts are also easily resolved this way, as verbal and nonverbal cues are observed and acted upon. Communicating professionally is important as one is representing the company. Speaking clearly and asking questions to understand the needs and wants, let the recipient respond as one resolves the issue. Decisions are made more confidently during a face-to-face interaction as the recipient asks questions to understand and move forward with their decision.
When using email to communicate in the business world, it is important to be careful with the choice of words. Miscommunication is frequent as the reader does not have access to the nonverbal cues that are available in face to face spoken communication, the pitch, tone, body language and facial expression. Before someone beginnings writing an email, they should make sure the email address one is using is appropriate and professional, as is the message one has composed. They should ensure that the message is clear and to the point so that the recipient understands clearly the sender's intent. Person should make sure to include the sender's signature, title, and other contact information at the end.
When making a business call, person makes it clear who is on the line and where one is from as well as one's message when on the phone. They should smile and have a positive attitude as the recipient will be able to read the caller and that will affect how they react. When leaving a message, make sure one is clear and brief. One should state their name and who they are and the purpose for contacting them. If replying to a voicemail, try to respond as soon as possible and take into consideration the time of day. Don't call too early or too late, as it is important to respect other's time. Also be mindful of where one is and the noise level as well as the people one is around when trying to reach someone by phone.
When making a sales call, hope for the person one are trying to connect to does not answer the phone. Leave up to five enticing messages and one's target audience will be ready to speak when one either gets a call back or one calls and reaches the person. The enticing message prepares the person to speak to the representative. It may be that the person is not interested based on what one had said in each voice message. Always be polite and accept that one may have many more to call. If the individual is reached, one might ask if there might be someone better suited for the advertised program.
If one is calling and leaving voice messages, include time of availability for callbacks. There is nothing worse than a callback coming to one when one is not available. Use the telephone as a great communication tool. Be polite and always put oneself in the other person's position. For more tips on making business calls and leaving enticing messages see Harlan J Brown's book on Telephone Participation.
When listening to another employee or customer it is important to be an active listener. Here are some obstacles that you might have to overcome:
- Filters and assumptions
- Biases and prejudices
- Inattention and impatience
- Surrounding environment
A good way to overcome these factors is by using "LOTS" Better Communication method. This method includes four steps in order to produce good listening skills and the ability to respond with an educated statement. The four steps to this method are:
Doing all of these things while showing good eye contact and body posture will assure the speaker that they are getting full attention from the listeners.
Choice of means and mode of communication – Choosing the right means and mode of communication plays a vital role in the effectiveness of the message being communicated and such a choice depends on various factors such as:
Organization size and policy – If the organization is small, probably more communication will be oral, than in larger organizations where it may be in writing. The policy for communication also would play a major role in influencing one's choice of mode of communication.
Cost factor –The main point to be considered here would be to evaluate whether the cost involved in sending the message would be commensurate with the results expected.
Nature of message – Whether the message is confidential in nature, urgent or important etc. and whether a matter would require hand delivery or be set by registered post etc. also influences the choice of mode and means of communication.
Distance involved – Whether the message to be sent is also another vital factor which could influence the choice of means and modes of communication. For example, if a letter is to be sent to a partner in a joint venture in Japan and it is urgent, individual wouldn't think of sending someone to personally deliver it.
Resources - The resources available to both the sender and receiver would also influence someone's choice. Person can only send a fax if the other person/organization has a fax machine. Therefore we can see that the choice of a particular mode and means of communication will depend on a case to case basis and is influenced by various factors.
Choosing communication media
When choosing a media of communication, it is important to consider who are the respective audience and the objective of the message itself. Rich media are more interactive than lean media and provide the opportunity for two-way communication: the receiver can ask questions and express opinions easily in person. To help such decision, one may roughly refer to the continuum shown below.
From Richer to Leaner
- Face-to-face meeting
- In-person oral presentation
- Online meeting
- Phone call
- Voice message
Subliminal method of communication
Subliminal perception refers to the individual ability to perceive and respond to stimuli that are below the threshold or level of consciousness, which proved to influence thoughts, feelings or actions altogether or separately. There are four distinct methods of communicating subliminally. These are visual stimuli in movies, accelerated speech, embedded images in a print advertisement, and suggestiveness which is not normally seen at first glance. Focussing on subliminal communication through visual stimuli, marketing people have adopted this method even incorporating it films and television shows. Subliminal method of communication first made its debut in a 1957 advertisement, during which a brief message flashed, telling viewers to eat popcorn and drink Coca-Cola. Since that time, subliminal communication has occupied a controversial role in the advertising landscape, with some people claiming it's omnipresent, while others emphasize it's not real. As of publication, there is still an ongoing scientific debate about whether subliminal advertising works. Subliminal messaging is a form of advertising in which a subtle message is inserted into a standard ad. This subtle message affects the consumer's behavior, but the consumer does not know she's seen the message. For example, a marketer might incorporate a single frame telling consumers to drink tea in a movie. In print media, advertisers might put hidden images or coded messages into ad text.
Arguments for effectiveness
A 2009 study at the University College of London found that people were especially likely to be affected by negative subliminal communication. For example, a cosmetic advertisement conveying to a consumer that she is ugly might be more effective. Subliminal ads "prime" the brain to seek out stimuli that match the message in the advertisement, according to a 1992 study published in "Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin." This can affect behavior, particularly when a message addresses an individual's insecurities or behavioral tendencies and when a consumer is in a context that allows her to act on the ad's message.
Business writing process
The challenge of the communication process is for the sender and receiver to gain a mutual understanding about the meaning of the message. A writer can put their words on paper, but the reader may not react to the words as the writer intended. Most writers are much more effective, successful, and productive if they spend time thinking about the communication situation before beginning to write. Successful writers approach writing as a three-step process that involves planning before starting to write, drafting with the audience (the reader) in mind, and revising the document to determine if it meets the audience’s needs and if it represents the organization well.
Writer should spend more time planning and revising your document than you spend writing. Dr. Ken Davis suggests effective writers spend as much as 40% of writing time on planning the document.
Once the writer has planned the purpose of their message, considered how their audience might react to the message, gathered their information, decided on an order for their information, and selected their medium for delivery, they are ready to compose their document. About 20% of writing time should be spent drafting the document.
Person shouldn't be concerned with perfection as you draft their message. They should write in a conversational tone, without using slang; write as they would speak in a workplace environment. One guideline that helps in the drafting stage is to write as though the writer is presenting the information to a friend. Rather than thinking of the audience as just “someone out there,” think of the audience as a specific person with whom they are building or maintaining a relationship. Thinking of a friend helps person to choose effective words and tone, help them to be clear, and include information helpful to the reader.
Revising is more than checking the writer's spelling and punctuation. Revising requires individual to check every part of they message to see if it is clear, concise, and correct and will take approximately 40% of writing time. Writer should want to look at every word to see if they selected the most appropriate one, at every sentence to see whether the structure is the best it can be, and at every paragraph to see whether it includes a well-developed argument. Finally review the document design to look for an attractive, professional appearance that meets their employer’s and their reader’s expectations.
- Founded in 1936 by Shankar is the Association for Business Communication (ABC), originally called the Association of College Teachers of Business Writing, is "an international organization committed to fostering excellence in business communication scholarship,research ,education, and practice."
- The IEEE Professional Communication Society (PCS)  is dedicated to understanding and promoting effective communication in engineering, scientific, and other environments, including business environments. PCS's academic journal, is one of the premier journals in Europe communication. The journal’s readers are engineers, writers, information designers, managers, and others working as scholars, educators, and practitioners who share an interest in the effective communication of technical and business information.
- The Society for Technical Communication is a professional association dedicated to the advancement of the theory and practice of technical communication. With membership of more than 6,000 technical communicators, it's the largest organization of its type in North America.
- The International Business Communication Standards are practical proposals for the conceptual and visual design of comprehensible reports and presentations.
- Newman, Amy, and Scott Ober. Business Communication: In Person, In Print, Online. 8th ed. Mason: South-Western, 2013. 18. Print.
- Newman, Amy, and Scott Ober. Business Communication: In Person, In Print, Online, 8e. 8th ed. Mason: South-Western, 2013. 18. Print.
- Easton, Anna; Heidewald, Jeanette; Morrone, Michael; Neher, Darryl; Steiner-Williams, Judy. Strategic Business Writing (2nd ed.). Trustees of Indiana University. p. 21. ISBN 978-0-253-01611-9.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-08-12. Retrieved 2007-09-11.
- IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication