4.3 Colleagues and Professionals

Communicators also keep in mind their colleagues or professional audiences when they consider how best to accomplish a message task. These are the people you work with and others in the same profession who you want to influence or impress.

For example, public relations professionals quickly learn to produce news releases that fit the formula sought by the media organizations they are trying to influence. The only way to be effective with a news release is to have a news organization “pick it up” or run a story based on it (this is why PR is referred to as “earned media.”) Effective PR specialists are those who can mimic the news style of their colleagues in the local media market and tailor their news releases so that they get the maximum exposure. In this case, the colleagues in the news organization are both part of the colleague AND the gatekeeper audience. Similarly, reporters might be tempted to write their stories in a way that they know (consciously or unconsciously) will avoid offending their most important sources (the professionals from whom they have to seek information on a regular basis).

Some advertising copywriters and art directors create ads with the hope that they will get nominated for the advertising awards that help boost careers and increase salaries. The awards are almost always judged by fellow advertising professionals.

These colleague or professional audience members exert an enormous influence on the way communicators in all media industries do their work. Communicators rely heavily on each other for ideas, and the rewards in most areas of communication work are measured by professional reputation and recognition rather than by high salaries. It is not surprising that communicators seek to create messages that will garner attention and recognition from peers in the industry.

Also, many communicators, especially those who work in news, are heavily reliant on information provided by others (government officials, industry sources, etc.). Therefore, communicators might be reluctant to do anything objectionable that will cause someone to “turn off” the information flow. That is one of the reasons news organizations may rotate journalists off a specific beat – they don’t want reporters to get too close to their sources.

And all communicators understand that if the communications they create are seen as unethical or irresponsible it harms not only their own professional careers but the credibility of the entire professional. As we will discuss in Lesson 7, it is essential to consider the legal and ethical implications of your information strategy and resulting message.

As important as it is to recognize the gatekeeper and colleague audiences when constructing a message, it is ultimately the target audience for the message that requires creative and careful consideration. Understanding to whom the message will be directed and doing the research to ensure you have identified and understand that “end-user” is a critical, and complicated, skill.


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Information Strategies for Communicators Copyright © 2015 by Kathleen A. Hansen and Nora Paul is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.