Effective communication is the key to transformation

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Over the past few months, I have remembered quite often a quote from Roy T. Bennett. He said, “You never change your life until you get out of your comfort zone; change starts at the end of your comfort zone. I guess each of us has been or soon will be at the end of our comfort zones.

Over the past few months, we’ve covered a lot of things to improve our community. These ranged from tourism, revitalization efforts, communication, collaboration, local shopping, safeguarding our media, local DNA and more. I would like to go back and discuss the critical nature of using effective communication. Specifically, let’s focus on how effective communication in our community facilitates the task of revitalization and creates a local state of mind.


I believe most want the best for their community, however, they may differ on what they perceive to be the “best”. Make no mistake, improving the quality of life by returning the heart and soul of a community to its rightful downtown location will be an uphill battle. This is a task in which you will have to unleash the best of all the prevalent communication vehicles possible.

A letter was shared with me recently, widely criticized for the efforts of many hard-working people as they attempt to give body and soul to their community by revitalizing their downtown area. Like most letters of this nature, it was long in general and short in detail. It was difficult to know where the writer came from, but the dissatisfaction was evident. You’ll never satisfy everyone, but a solid communications plan will educate these community influencers of the facts, figures, and logic behind your efforts.

Despite a declining trend that has lasted for decades, not everyone will be behind the efforts to grow and revitalize the downtown area. Change is difficult! Even in the face of conclusive facts and trends, changing a failing but comfortable course is difficult for many. A good, well thought out communication plan can educate about the realities facing the community. Done well, it can even bring some previous opponents to your side.

I have shared this once before, but I will share it again. A study was done in the military showing what is true of most segments of society. Two simple questions were asked: “What do you love most about the military and what do you LIKE most about the military?” The answer to both questions was CHANGE. Most of us inherently know we need to change, but few are ready to do it. It’s safe to say that change brings out the best and the worst in people. Those who make the necessary changes are the heroes of your community. Those naysayers who hang on and resist much-needed change are just obstacles to the progress that your community needs.

Change agents need not fear. To use an old quote, “those who say it can’t be done are interrupted by others who actually do.” Attempts at sustainable progress always meet with opposition, no matter what the enterprise. Always go ahead, follow the facts, understand the trends, ignore the naysayers, and do the right thing. Eventually, most logical people will figure this out.

What makes us truly unique in our communities are our diverse backgrounds, our different experiences, our different upbrings and our sources of information. I often think that if we all had access to the same information, experiences and backgrounds, we would find the same directions and solutions. However, as we all come from diverse backgrounds, this increases our options. On the other hand, it can divide us deeply. This is true in politics and religion and may even be true in economic development.

Knowing what we know about change and the resistance it creates, one effective tool we need to use is better communication. More to communicate if necessary. Tell your story in the newspaper, on social media, through traditional and non-traditional media. Develop consistent and regular press releases using all the tools at your disposal. Don’t overlook any detail in this part of the plan. Those who can communicate their mission are in a much better position to succeed in the task of creating change and revitalizing their downtown core.

John A. Newby is the author of the “Building Main Street, Not Wall Street” weekly column series dedicated to helping communities and media businesses work together, making it possible to not only survive, but thrive in a world where the real local is lost to Amazon, Wall Street chains and others. Readers can email him at john@360MediaAlliance.net.


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