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Article: You cannot not communicate -or why communications is the foundation of economic development

Updated: Apr 13, 2020

I studied communications. I spent five years at the University of Zurich in my home country of Switzerland studying all aspects of communicating. Now after more than a decade into my working life and career, I sometimes wonder what was my number one take-away from my university time that I can apply in my daily work today.My daily work today is TSIMANN where we specialize in communications for economic development and foreign direct investment (FDI). We help countries, regions and cities in promoting their location to foreign investors, mainly between the US and Europe.One of the basic communications principles I learned, and an adage I like a lot because of its simplicity is from Paul Watzlawick, the famous Austrian-American psychologist and communications theorist:

“You cannot not communicate”

Watzlawick thought that even if someone (or an organization) doesn’t communicate, staying silent is a message in itself. Communications is at the base of everything. Even if you would like, you can’t not communicate.Think for example of crisis communications that are too late and/or too little. Too often companies or organizations stay silent for too long instead of publicly apologizing or publicly owning the mistake they made.We worked with one EDO once, who – without us having a hand in the matter! - attacked another location in a marketing campaign to lure in companies from there. The campaign backfired, and in the face of a public outrage, board and management – again, sans nous! – communicated too late and too little which led to a political shit storm for this particular EDO. The absence of communications can harm the image of your location.The communications principle “you cannot not communicate” should be a mantra for every Economic Development Organization (EDO).  Being conscious and critical about what and how exactly you communicate is the foundation of your FDI strategy and should be leveraged across the communications channels - from social media to marketing communications to PR.  Because conscious communications are good communications, and they will bring you faster in front of foreign investors and leave you overall better prepared for advising investors about your location.Ever since my early days as a student, I’ve kept “you cannot not communicate” in mind, and even now, while working with EDOs, it hasn’t lost its truth.What is your communications mantra?

This article was published on LinkedIn, September 2016

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