Is communication ambiguous?

5 09 2008

After reading an article in Dr. David Novak’s organizational communication class about communication, I felt that I could connect this to one of the examples of PR we talked about in my PRinciples class.

The article was a series of questions proposed to five communication scholars Kevin Barge, Brant Bureleson, Dennis Gouran, Lynn Harter, and John Heineman.  One of the questions proposed had to deal with misperceptions about communication.  Kevin Barge’s response to this question was that people think that communication must always be clear and be about getting your message across despite the context of the situation.  He goes on to explain that in some situations ambiguity can be every effective and he gives the example of PR.

This reminded me of David Neeleman’s youtube responseto the JetBlue Airlines crisis.  If you had no knowledge of the crisis you would have no idea what Mr. Neeleman was apologizing for.  This case is an excellent example of good PR.  Mr. Neeleman used ambiguous communication to respond to the crisis and apologize for the events that took place at JetBlue.  Therefore, I do think that ambiguous communication is necessary in some situations.  Repeating the incidents that occurred would have only given more media coverage to something that JetBlue wishes could just disappear, therefore approaching the situation by talking generally was an excellent way to address upset costumers and keep the news from spreading too much.  After all good PR is ethical yet effective.

The article was originally published in Communication Currents, Volume 2, Issue 4, August 2007


Sorry.  As Dr. Novak pointed out, everyone may not have known what the crisis was.  Here is an article from the New York Times that explains the situation.