While you might think the concept is so simple that it hardly bears thinking about (and indeed, the concept is simple), the truth is that a lot of us think we are in conversation when in reality we are either broadcasting or not listening. Indeed, many corporations (because of their sheer size and logistics) have difficulty getting used to the idea of interaction. Their traditional use of media for internal and external communication has not lent itself to interactivity. If you think of internal devices such as e-mail, memos, reports, and videos (even when they specifically request feedback), they are all pretty consistent about being one-way vehicles. External communications like annual reports; print newsletters; magazine articles; brochures; and television, radio, or podcast programs all tend to broadcast in one direction.

Today we are working in environments that disrupt the tradition of broadcast messaging. Social media lends itself to be highly interactive and provides spaces for instant, passionate, and almost constant conversation. We have all kinds of opportunity for conversation, and the employee suggestion box has given way to internal wikis and blogs that allow for input from all levels of the organization. This includes the use of video blogging, video conferencing, and leveraging different types of online communities.

In the past, communications specialists were heavily involved in speech writing for CEOs and politicians. Now, many CEOs and politicians post on social media on their own. Their communications team will keep them up to date on how to use social media, and perhaps even manage their accounts, but the CEO or politician creates their own messages. This emphasizes how things get even trickier to manage when the CEO or politician has released a message over Twitter or Instagram that goes viral and garners hundreds or even tens of thousands of responses. These events remind us how fluid this communication is, as opposed to where it was closed, directive, and of singular direction in the past.