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Understanding Self-interest and Unspoken Needs

Communication represents more than the exchange of information. Good reputations emerge when what we say is consistent with what we do. For example, inconvenient industrial truck traffic may compete with an operators’ communication about the excellent management and safety culture at a site. Similarly, messages about public involvement must be matched with frequent engagement. This formula is just as important with internal stakeholders like employees as it is with external stakeholders.

The same effective communication activities that help employees work together to operate the plant, apply to how the organization works with the broader society.

Communicators who listen carefully to their audiences gain important insights into what factors are shaping their opinions. From individual stakeholder employees, to government and policy stakeholders, engagement activities help shape critical messages. Communication fulfils many needs, including:

  • Providing information about the project, such as the project timeline and when to expect activities to commence and conclude,
  • Motivating stakeholder interests, such as the purpose of the project and the saliency to the individual and to the nation,
  • Anticipating and attempting to answer stakeholder concerns and issues before they are proposed.

Communicators must be able to address direct questions and be prepared for indirect questions. Stakeholders may express concerns about broad issues although what they really want is information related to direct impacts on their daily lives. In this sense, communicators must identify concerns that may not be brought forward by direct stakeholder questions.

Effective outreach is a powerful tool that can connect diverse stakeholders with the basic values that we share. Security, safety, connectedness and self-determination are values that motivate people on a fundamental level. If these human values are not considered with the messages of a nuclear technology project, audiences will be less likely to relate to the importance of the effort.

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