If information flow has to happen periodically and consistently, appropriate processes have to be designed and implemented. Information systems, therefore, become an integral part of the overall business communication framework.
Information can be classified in different ways. One way is to classify it in terms of its users—management information, executive information, customer information, employee information, etc.
Another type of classification relates to the key objective in providing information and the form it assumes. In that sense, information is of the following types: order, advice, suggestion, motivation, persuasion, warning and education.
As business communicators, it is essential for us to note that each piece of information has distinct characteristics. In the following paragraphs, we shall be covering in brief the features of these.
An order is an instruction from an authority that is in a position to issue and enforce such instructions. Although orders can be both oral and written, in business organizations, it is a common practice to issue written orders.
Orders are generally issued by people who are superior in position and are placed higher in the organizational hierarchy. An order is issued by the organizational hierarchy.
An order is issued by the chairman to the general managers, general manager to the regional managers, vice-president to the branch managers, and manager to the employees and so on.
In military there are orderlies, who are soldiers who take orders and messages from their officers. The orders may emanate suomoto or at the request of the subordinates. Orders may be both given and sought. An order conveys finality.
It is something that is taken seriously and implemented. In business organizations, we regularly come across orders or instructions, such as work order, transfer order, suspension order, punishment order and report order.
By its very nature, an order is an instruction that is to be obeyed and often not obeying the order entails penal action. An order may take the form of a letter, note, circular, memo, etc.
From ordinary and routine letters to the board notes submitted ‘for orders’, there are innumerable types of orders that are issued in business organizations. An order is explicitly stated for the sake of clarity.
The choice of words is important while conveying an order. The word ‘order’ is to be specifically mentioned. Some examples of an order are as follows:
1. ‘It is hereby ordered that all our offices will remain closed on 30 June for stock taking.’
2. ‘You are hereby ordered to report for duty, without fail, by 10 April.’
3. ‘By this office order, you are instructed to complete the pending work within three weeks from the date of this order.’
4. ‘By this order, you are hereby transferred to our regional office at Bhopal, and are instructed to join there within 10 days of relief from our Nagpur office.’
The word ‘order’ is also used to convey purchase items or orders for supply of goods, services, etc. A purchase order is issued by way of a letter or as per a specific format from a buyer to a manufacturer, seller or supplier. Any such purchase order should specifically convey the following for the sake of clarity:
1. Quantity or number
2. Quality—size, colour, specifications, features, etc.
3. Price—with or without tax, etc.
4. Discounts and concessions
5. Payment terms
6. Penalty clauses, if any.
It is essential that due care is taken in mentioning all relevant details while issuing a purchase order so that the recipient understands exactly what is to be supplied, and the scope for misunderstanding is eliminated.
Advice relates to a communication, often in writing, that tends to inform, tell or let someone know. Advice is the verb for the noun ‘advice’. An advice relates to suggestions, opinions or comments given to someone on what they should do in a particular suggestion.
In the business context, an advice is an official note about a transaction, credit, etc. Thus, there are credit advices, debit advices, payment advices, etc. While an order is a clear instruction that should be obeyed, an advice is by nature a suggestion or recommendation that may be considered or examined.
It is expected that when any advise is given, it is given due consideration by the recipient. Advises are conveyed through letters to employees, customers, debtors, suppliers, etc. Advises may take many forms, ranging from a mildly worded request to a veiled threat.
Sometimes, although letters take the form of an advisory, they are indeed an instruction or an item to be complied with. For example, regulatory bodies issue advisories that have to be complied with. Some examples of an advice are as follows:
1. ‘You are hereby advised to contact your branch manager at the earliest.’
2. ‘You are advised to send us your lowest offer within a weak.’
3. ‘You are advised to make the payment of Rs 10,000 before the 25th of this month so as to avoid any further action.’
4. ‘You are advised to read our manual of instructions for details of procedures to be followed.’
Whether advice is actually a request or a suggestion or something that is in the nature of an instruction that should not be taken lightly, depends on the authority issuing it, the context and the context.
It is worth emphasizing here that often writers tend to use the wrong spelling and use the word ‘advice’ instead of ‘advise’ or vice versa. Advice is a noun that refers to a suggestion or intimation, whereas advice is a verb that refers to the act of giving advice.
A suggestion is a proposal, a plan, a recommendation or an idea that is put up by an individual, group, committee, federation or an organization. To suggest something is to put forward something as a possibility or recommendation.
Unlike an order or an advice, which normally emanates from a higher authority or a senior, a suggestion can be made by anyone irrespective of his hierarchical position. A suggestion is more like a request put up for consideration. It can be made by employees, customer, associations or anyone interested in the business or organization.
Suggestions should be brief, clear and specific. The person making the suggestion should keep in view the reasonableness or acceptability of the suggestion and its relevance to the receiver.
In the chapter on Internal Communication (Chapter 7), we will be listing out some of the common areas in which suggestions are made in a business organization. In drafting a suggestion, the normal features that are relevant for any good letter, such as brevity, clarity and focus, should be kept in view.
Some examples of a good opening sentence for a suggestion are as follows:
1. ‘I am happy to offer my suggestion relating to work simplification in your organization.’
2. ‘We wish to submit the following suggestions aimed at bringing about cost reduction.’
3. ‘I am making this suggestion to you for introducing a flexi-deposit scheme for the senior citizens.’
The best approach in drafting a suggestion is the direct one, where the writer comes straight to the point and clearly states the nature of the suggestion. It is not enough just to state the suggestion or the recommendation.
The person making a suggestion should go one step further and spell out the details of the idea, and how it will benefit the receiver if it is implemented. Since a person making a suggestion does so in the interest of the organization, it is essential that the receiver acknowledges it and considers its merits.
Motivation constitutes another very important facet of business communication. To motivate means to cause or stimulate a person to act. Motivation is the noun that refers to the act of motivating a person. Motive is the cause of action or underlying reason for the intended action to take place.
Motive provides the power or force for action. Motive stimulates action. That is why the words motive power and motive force is commonly used. The word ‘motive’ has evolved from the Latin word ‘movere’, which means ‘to move’.
Motivation thus refers to the ability to move or stimulate a person to act in the desired manner, and motivational communication relates to a piece of writing that endeavours to prompt action from the receiver of the communication.
In business pretence, motivational communication is associated with positive writing that not only informs, but also enthuses and stimulates the recipient to act and respond favourably. Motivation can take place through both written and spoken communication.
Motivation is an important area of study in psychology and there is a vast literature on the subject of motivation. What motivates people to act, whether it is to work, or to buy something, or reply or give feedback, is not something easy to comprehend.
Human beings are known to respond differently to different situations. Not only that, even the same person may not respond the same way to the same situation at different times. How people respond to various stimuli is an interesting study by itself.
In the chapter on ‘Internal Communication’ discussed later in this book, we have referred to the theory of motivation and Abraham Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Needs’. In order to make motivation effective, a business writer should have a deeper understanding of the theory of motivation and how people behave under different circumstances.
For the present purpose, the business communicator should note that motivational communication consists of letters, circulars, memos, etc., which use positive words that have the power to stimulate the reader.
In fact, motivation is a fascinating area, and leaders and accomplished writers develop a wide array of motivational skills. A good business communicator should, over a period of time, progressively improve his/her motivational communication skills, both verbal and written.
Persuasion is another type of communication that is widely prevalent in business. Like motivation, persuasion is also a very intense form of writing or speaking. The word ‘persuade’ means to urge someone to do something successfully.
To persuade also means to induce, to convince and urge with tact and reasoning. Persuasive writing is of great value in business communication. In everyday business situations, people need to be not merely informed, but also persuaded.
The ability to persuade others into some specific action, both verbally and in writing, is put to test very rampantly. By persuasive communication, the writer is making out a strong case as to why something is true, valid, advisable or desirable.
Effective writers develop strong persuasive powers. The words chosen, the style of writing and the sequencing of arguments or reasoning come into full play in any persuasive writing. Let us look at some examples where persuasive writing would be relevant:
1. Where the seller is persuading the buyer to buy the product: Here the persuasion will have to be done with reference to the quality, price, limited period offer and such other features of value to the buyer.
2. Where the personnel manager is persuading the manager to accept a certain assignment in a far away place: Here the persuasion should be in terms of the future prospects, challenging nature of the work, why the other person is most suited and such other relevant points that would appeal to the person who is being persuaded.
3. Where the regional manager is persuading the branch manager to accept a higher business target: The objective in setting challenging goals, the potential in the command area, the manager’s past track record and the strength of his team are aspects that can be gainfully brought into play in making persuasion effective.
As we discuss topics like how to make communication effective and the rules of good writing, one can acquire a better understanding of effective writing techniques, including persuasive writing.
Warning is a very different type of communication compared to what we have discussed hitherto. Unlike the positive approach in motivation or advice, the approach would be somewhat negative in a warning.
In fact, warning, by its very nature, is the last resort for a communicator. No communicator should start with a warning. Warning is adopted only when the other types of information do not succeed.
The word warn has different shades of meaning such as (1) to notify in advance, (2) to caution, (3) to admonish, (4) to advise someone strongly and (5) to rebuke or admonish someone with a threat of punishment for a repletion of the act.
Warning is a precursor of punishment. In the organizational context, there are everyday occasions where some kind of warning is to be given for errant employees, habitual offenders, those indulging in activities inimical to the interest of the organization and so on.
Such warning may be both oral and written. When the oral warnings are not heeded, warnings have to be made in writing and it becomes essential to create a record of such warnings before further punitive action is initiated.
Let us look at some examples of warning statements in organizations and businesses:
a. You are hereby warned that continued absence from duty will be sternly dealt with.
b. All our employees participating in the illegal strike will be discussed from the services of the bank.
c. We would like to caution you about the leaking confidential information relating to the company to our competitors.
It is worth noting here that while the word ‘warning’ may have to be used depending upon the severity of the act, a milder word like cautioning may also be used to convey the message. In any warning, because of its very nature, relatively stronger words may have to be used to convey that the matter is being viewed seriously.