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Effective communication -- a vital tool for building positive image of RMG sector

Riaz Khan | September 28, 2017 00:00:00

The readymade garment (RMG) industry is the leading sector in Bangladesh in terms of foreign exchange earnings. It accounts for 80 per cent of total export earnings. In Bangladesh, 4.4 million people are working in around 5,000 garments factories and approximately 80 per cent of them are female.

Bangladesh is the second largest RMG exporter worldwide after China. China's market share is around 31 per cent of the global garment market of $450b while Bangladesh holds 5.0 per cent, as its RMG sector has experienced an exponential growth since 1980s.

European and American companies are planning to expand the share of their apparel sourcing from Bangladesh 25 to 32 per cent by 2020 from an average of 20 per cent. From the above perspective, we can say that Bangladesh has a great opportunity to become the hotspot of apparel sourcing. China has already placed some orders for apparel items to Bangladesh. If the Chinese companies focus on Bangladesh, it will be a great opportunity for the country's RMG sector.

But are we really in a strategic position to harness all the potentials of the industry and the sector? Maybe not, because we see very little effort on the part of the stakeholders in the sector to communicate our position, our strength, our resources and our potentials at the local, regional and international level through different channels of communication. Very little communication takes place due to lack of a comprehensive communication strategy.

Communication strategy for grabbing potentials: To harness the potentials, we need to develop a comprehensive communication plan for the RMG sector. It is very unfortunate that most elephant-size organisations in this sector have a tiny rabbit-size communication department. For the sake of the sector's expansion, it is vital to communicate effectively and efficiently. Communication is an integral instinct of all living things. It is a process of exchanging facts, information and ideas through sharing a common platform between a sender and a receiver. Communication means transferring thoughts and ideas with an intention of delivering information. It is important to employ certain tactics that will help you communicate in the right manner, put forth the ideas and exchange information precisely. Without having the understanding of the need for communication, we will embrace failure. Hence, we need a communication strategy or plan. The communication strategy is a document that expresses the goals and methods of an organisation's outreach activities, including what an organisation wishes to share with the public and whom the organisation is trying to reach.

On the other hand, a corporate communication strategy framework is a tool for planning communication with your employees, customers, suppliers and investors. You can use the framework to build a better understanding of your company and enhance your reputation with people whose attitudes and actions influence the success of your business. Continuous communication of the organisation's mission, vision and direction is the key to success in becoming a high-performing organisation. The organisation must build a clear roadmap to secure stakeholders' commitment.

Communication strategy - sharing the vision: Communication about the purpose has to be sustained, consistent and repetitive. In technology terms, I would say you need an omni-channel and multichannel approach to communicating the purpose. Effective corporate communications is essential to convey the purpose of a business. Attract, engage, inform and inspire the stakeholders towards the objective, the purpose, the goal and the vision.

Well-run organisations that fail to recognise the importance of corporate communication are like the proverbial mousetrap in the middle of a wood. This is true not only for sales and marketing but for good corporate communication, and regular communication with the stakeholders helps keep all relationships open and healthy.

A solid communication strategy allows for honest contribution of all to the organiation, allowing people on the front lines to give their insight into the decision-making process. With the truth and an inclusive corporate communications strategy, it is possible to respond to market trends appropriately.

A corporate communication strategy improves the quality of decisions, which significantly contributes to your organisation's success.

Communicating the truth is important: The RMG and textile sector of Bangladesh has some shortcomings. There are issues and concerns about workplace safety, working hours, working condition, minimum wage etc. It was found in some cases the industry remains calm and silent when there are much debates and concerns in the international arena. We become more silent when the industry faces shock and disaster.

Rana Plaza collapse and Tazreen Fashions fire are two serious and catastrophic occurrences damaging the reputation that Bangladesh has earned in the global RMG sector previously. These events have brought into question the safety and infrastructural standards of the factories in Bangladesh. The more there were shouts and debates on these issues globally, the more we closed our communication channels. We experienced formal reaction from international community demanding justice for the victims. Pope Francis has denounced as "slave labour" the condition of workers caught in a deadly building collapse in Bangladesh. The protesters on the streets of the USA and Europe displayed placards saying every penny in the garment sector is stained with blood of the Rana Plaza victims.

We have seen very little communication from the government as well as the sector players as to what is our stance, our thoughts and actions to address the crisis, which might have reassured the international community. Our silence in this regard has rather sent a message to the national and international actors that we are indifferent to these issues and we don't care much about them, which may potentially jeopardise our reputation despite our belief that the industry as well as the government has given due attention to the crisis. But we miserably failed to communicate this effectively and efficiently, as our RMG sector lacks a communication strategy.

Building the relationship of trust: Finally, we need to exhibit our trustworthiness towards the world and the people concerned -- from the buyers to the micro-level consumers. We have to have the trust on the saying of Stephen Covey: 'Trust is the glue of life. It's the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It's the foundational principle that holds all relationship'. And the relationship cannot grow without the proper amount of communication. Finally again, if you are not able to build relationship, you shall potentially not stay in the corporate world.

Harness the power of social media: The way we communicate with one another has completely changed over the past few years. While email and text messages were once the most immediate methods of communication with friends and colleagues, we now have Facebook, Slack, Twitter, Instagram stories, Snapchat, What'sApp, and more. The way we can contact one another now using the social media makes face-to-face interactions virtually unnecessary.

The pattern and spectrum of communications have been changed globally. The new media is overruling the communication contents worldwide. With the advent of digital technology and internet connectivity, it has now become very easy to make a real-time communication and collect real-time data information. We cannot keep the fact hidden even if we keep our mouth shut. Particularly when the social media has emerged as the most powerful medium of communication, we cannot simply put our head in the sand.

Let us exercise due diligence to develop a communication strategy where we will consider embracing and utilising the social media effectively to communicate our vision to the world and build a positive image for the RMG and textile sector of Bangladesh.

Md. Riaz Uddin Khan, Adjunct Faculty, Media Studies and Journalism, University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB). [email protected]

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