Purposeful communication


An animated Nudgital logo: A pixelated white lowercase letter "n" on top of three overlapping black squares, animated over a background of random colored pixels revealed by logo elements popping out and back in.
Nudgital Color Noise

As I’ve long been wanting to bring my professional work under a shared umbrella, I spent some time thinking about what connects the positions I’ve held, the consulting I’ve done, and my volunteer activities. Where does my career intersect with my education and teaching? What do the people I value most as guides and collaborators have in common? Nudgital is the new home for my work, connecting what I’ve done so far to what I’ll do next. At the top of Nudgital’s home page, you’ll see the phrase purposeful communication, which is the shortest description I’ve come up with to describe what’s central to my past and future work. So what the heck is Nudgital? What do I mean by purposeful communication?

Close up of cast iron vintage scale, showing a forked post holding a balanced beam.
In the Balance” by Clint Budd, here slightly cropped, is licensed via CC BY 2.0.

Too often, the values that underlie our work are unspoken, or published and neglected. So I started out by distilling the values and principles that I try to realize in every project. From agile to transparent, I came up with 16 different values and their simple definitions. I know I haven’t captured them all yet, but already they serve as a fruitful checklist to align any activity with the values that I think are essential. While it is not always possible to bring every value into everything we do, it’s always worth considering if we can amplify our core values as a part of our regular workflows. By formalizing these values, I now have a constructive way to actually bring them systematically into my practices.

So in practice, how do we actually bring our values into our work? My core value to be contextual leads me away from believing there’s one standard way to do everything, and yet I have found that there are (at least) six common components in the way I approach a project that I have found will help ensure it succeeds. In short, my approach is to put people at the center, connect knowledge practices, build simply on existing work, focus on default infrastructure and services, and — of course — follow those core values and principles.

Extreme close up of bee in flight against a background of yellow flowers and greenery in soft focus.
Bee Flying” by Ronnie Khan, here slightly cropped, is licensed via CC BY 2.0.

I uncovered the sixth component in my approach when I realized that I believe communications should always be rooted in the idea of community. It’s a standard early step in any communications effort to define its audience, but I believe communications is more effective when we go a step further and think of those who we want to hear our message not just as an audience, but as a community. Audience emphasizes the passive and happenstance characteristics of people who you hope get your message. Community recognizes not only that the people in our audiences are always embedded in their own communities — communities that we need to understand and acknowledge for our communications to succeed — but also that when our communications are successful, we are in some way bringing people into our community — which is a much more powerful result than just getting a message to an audience. Integrating community thinking into communications strategy helps enrich the development and evaluation of communications activities.

What is purposeful communication?

So what do I mean by purposeful communication? What I hope comes across is that purposeful here means at least three different things: on purpose — in the sense that communications should be undertaken thoughtfully, with intention; with purpose — in the sense that communications should be designed to accomplish something in the world; and full of purpose — in the sense that communications should be aligned with larger purposes, beyond the narrow goals of the message, sender, or audience. Looking back and forward at my work in communications, I see that it has been and hope that it will always be full of purpose to make the world better.

An animated Nudgital logo: A pixelated white lowercase letter "n" on top of three overlapping black squares dissolves as black pixels rise like bubbles to reveal a blank canvas.
Nudgital Effervescence

So why Nudgital? You may have already caught on that Nudgital is a combination of nudge and digital — which also can help guide how I pronounce it: NUDGE-ital. In a small sense, communications is a nudge to do or think something, but in a larger sense, I want Nudgital to nudge me and others to think about and do communications on purpose, with purpose, and full of purpose. Adding digital is not to limit Nudgital’s work only to digital media, but to recognize that in these days, even analog, in-person works will likely have digital dimensions: in design, publicity, presentation, archiving, and more. As an ongoing demonstration of Nudgital’s character, check out our growing collection of nudgitals — different manifestations of the Nudgital logo.

In various places throughout Nudgital you may see a first person plural pronoun like we or us and might wonder in what way Nudgital involves anyone other than me, Nate Angell. In some cases, Nudgital and Nate will be one and the same. But at other times, Nudgital will bring in other people who compliment or extend my viewpoint, skills, and expertise.

Speaking of which, in keeping with our core values to be inclusive and participatory, what would you add to the values and approach we’ve published so far? Contact us to let us know and join the Nudgital community.

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