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  • Subject area(s): Marketing
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  • Published on: 14th September 2019
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Q1) Grapevine communication is an informal type of correspondence between colleagues at the same, or different level of employment. For example: The HR manager may have friendly relations with the Managing Director. 

The purpose of grapevine communication is to create a safe environment for employees to give feedback on the changes brought by management. It brings mental peace to those participating and may help to reduce emotional reactions to situations. This type of communication creates a strong bond among peer groups and helps its participants fit in because it grows the involvement with the business. Grapevine communication keeps the participants foresee change and thus acts as a shield against shockwaves. 

Grapevine communication creates a chance for employees to talk about their worries, their disappointments, their concerns and their apprehensions. Through this type of communication, employees get emotional relief. High morale is proven by the fact that the participants have an interest in their colleagues. Therefore, it can be claimed that this type of communication promotes unity, honesty, camaraderie, and also increases the spirits and confidence of the participants. Grapevine communication occurs not because they are forced to talk amongst each other, but because they genuinely want to talk with their colleagues.

The types of grapevine communication are: 

1) Single Strand Chain: Information is passed on from person to person in a linear manner. It is the most widespread pattern through which information is passed on. However, this particular method of communication is time consuming in nature. 

A single strand chain looks like this: 

2) Gossip Chain: Information is passed on from a single person to a group of people. This person communicates a message that he or she has obtained. In this, one person is dominating the conversation. He or she is at the centre and passes on information through various lines of communication. This is also known as the wheel. For example: Information being passed on in a WhatsApp Group by a single person.

A gossip chain looks like this:

3) Probability Chain: A single person communicates information to those who he or she comes into contact with. There are only a few participants in this type of communication, and the information may be appealing, but not crucial. It is also known as a random process.

A probability chain like this:

4) Cluster Chain: In this, a single person passes on information to other people. These participants pass on the information to another group, and so on. It has several groups of people linked together by a chain of communication.

A cluster chain looks like this:

The drawbacks of grapevine communication include:

1) There may be undesirable and unanticipated outbursts from emotionally unbalanced people. This may occur when the information passed on was not handled delicately, appropriately or in a timely manner.

2) It could be unsafe for business health and growth if the grapevine isn't monitored. It may also create hostility towards the executives.

3) There is a possibility of the grapevine becoming a rumour mill. It may also lead to gossip within the company, creating the likelihood of misunderstanding and thus, wrong information being spread. Often, participants may spread baseless, imaginary and inaccurate messages.

4) Messages may be taken out of context, exaggerated or even distorted in the grapevine. This is because details of the message may be lost as many people filter through it. People may also add new details which could add to the confusion of the original message.

5) Conversations are not private as the communication is done openly. Thus, information is not kept secret. This may lead to conflict in the future.

6) Since there is no policy, or no established rules, the information cannot be controlled. The flow of communication cannot be regulated.

7) Productivity can be hindered due to grapevine communication. This is because employees may spend their time talking rather than working.

8) Participants may try to be self serving using this type of communication as a tool to get their way. They may add to the truth, as opposed to just reporting it. 

Grapevine communication stems from the psychological need of the participants to converse about their jobs, their colleagues and their bosses as the topic of their top most interest. Lack of grapevine communication would create a dull and rather hostile environment in the firm. It can also be used as a tool to measure the opinions formed by the employees in the company. Managers can use this to understand more about his or her subordinates in terms of their ideas, opinions, attitudes and interests.

Q2) Communication is the act of imparting information. It can be further categorised into verbal and nonverbal communication.

Verbal communication is the usage of sounds and words that is used to express oneself. For example: Saying yes, when someone is asked to do something you want to do.

Nonverbal communication can be defined as the conveying or obtaining messages without using any words. It uses visual cues to communicate ones interests and investment, or lack thereof, to others. For example: Nodding your head to convey your acceptance when asked to do something you want to do.

The aspects of nonverbal communication are appearance, kinesics, and sound.

Nonverbal communication can be classified into the following:

Facial expressions: Words can be controlled, however, human faces tend to convey exactly what is being felt. Facial expressions are usually universal. This means that no matter which part of the world someone is in, the expression for happiness (or any other feeling) would be depicted in the same way. Facial expressions can be used to enhance the meaning of messages. For example: A scrunched up brow and a clenched mouth would be depicting a serious message. 

Body movements and posture: This can be used to communicate interest and attentiveness. There are generally four types of human postures - standing, sitting, squatting and lying down. Humans communicate the most while standing or sitting. A lot of information can be conveyed through a persons posture and body language. Each type of posture conveys different messages to the audience. For example: Putting your hands on your hips can show that one is being assertive, as they are trying to look bigger. 

Gestures: There are three main types of gestures - adaptors, illustrators and emblems. 

Emblems are gestures that have a particular meaning, and have an agreed-on interpretation. However, these interpretations may vary culturally. For example: Nodding of your head usually shows an affirmative yes, in countries such as Bulgaria and Greece, it is interpreted as a no.

Adaptors includes touching behaviours and movements that may indicate internal feelings. For example: Subconsciously clicking a pen may show nervousness. Self adaptors include common self touching behaviours. For example: Scratching or fidgeting with fingers or hands. Object adaptors include any type of object (for example, smartphones) to help ease anxiety.

Illustrators are used to emphasise on the verbal message being communicated. These tend to be involuntary in nature but differ in terms of the intensity and frequency based on context. For example: Hand gestures may be used to indicate the size of an item.

Eye contact: Eye contact can be used to regulate and monitor interaction, conveying information and establishing interpersonal connections. Humans tend to shift eye contact so as to signal that they are ready to speak, or to cue it to others to speak. While listening, humans tend to make continuous eye contact as opposed to glancing away like we do while speaking. In countries such as Spain and Germany, eye contact is valued. However, in countries like China and Japan, eye contact is considered as a sign of lack of respect.

Touch: Haptics is the study of communication by touch. Touch is necessary for human social development and can have various impacts on how one is being perceived. Withholding of touch could indicate various types of negative feelings. As one ages, the frequency of touch decreases. Touch can be interpreted in different ways, and therefore needs to be carefully executed. For example: A manager putting his or her hand on a subordinate can be viewed as either a supportive gesture or as a sexual advance. Thus, it is important to be mindful and to understand how touch can be misunderstood.

Space: Proxemics is the study of the impact of space and distance on communication. Space tends to influence behaviour and communication. For example, when in a small, overcrowded area, personal space can be breached easily. Thus, most people make communicative adjustments to manage this particular problem. However, in situations when there is no overcrowding, but one feels that there personal space is being invaded, one could have negative reactions. This is because it may feel like ones personal space is intentionally being violated. There are four zones of distance, namely, public, social, personal and intimate distance. For a working professional, it is ideal to keep a one arm distance from their colleagues and subordinates. 

Voice: Paralanguage is the vocalised, but nonverbal parts of a message. This includes pitch, speaking rate, verbal fillers, vocal quality, and volume. Vocalics is the study of paralanguage. 

An appropriate use of pitch can express meaning, control the flow of conversation, and convey the intensity of a message. For example: Pitch can be used to depict sarcasm. Children and adults with a lower than average intelligence tend to have a difficulty in reading sarcasm, and thus interpret it as literal.

Speaking rate is the speed at which a person speaks. It leads others to form impressions in terms of credibility, emotional state, and intelligence. Variations in this can create issues with the capability of others to interpret and receive the verbal message. For example: A slow speaker may bore the audience, but a fast speaker may be difficult to follow. 

Verbal fillers are sounds that fill the gaps in a speech while the speaker contemplates what to say next. They do not have a specific meaning. For example: Um, uh, like and ah are used in conversation, and may not typically be considered disruptive. 

Vocal quality includes tone, pitch, and resonance. Each voice has an unique quality known as a vocal signature. People tend to find voices that are not monotone, have a lower pitch and do not have a regional accent, pleasing.

Volume helps to communicate intensity. A louder voice depicts intensity, but a softer voice with a particular tone and facial expression can depict the same type of intensity.

Research claims that only 5% effect is created by the words being exchanged, 45% by the elements of sound, and the remaining 50% by the body language. Nonverbal communication helps us convey meaning and information to others, and help us interpret the actions of others.  Q3) A) Computer tools are used to collect information in terms of the thoughts and beliefs that different groups have about an organisation. Computer tools can be classified into three main categories, namely, survey, interview and a focus group. Most companies use a combination of these tools to get a more valuable and appropriate response. Data collected can be in quantitative, qualitative or a combination of both. There are tools to analyse this data.

A focus group is a computer tool that brings 8 to 15 stakeholders together to provide feedback for a product, service, concept or marketing campaign. A qualified moderator is in charge of controlling the 30 to 90 minute planned discussion so as to collate the most valid and applicable information. Focus groups are not intended to arrive at a decision; they are just required to identify the perception and feelings that a customer may have. Thus, this method is the most appropriate for Zenstar Technologies to get feedback before the product launch.

Focus groups are extremely participatory in nature and can be used to obtain different ideas about the new product. It capitalises on the ability of the moderator to talk to the participants and to talk about the product. Since the participants may vary, but the topic of interest will be the same, different experiences, ideas and points of views often are discussed. This would help the moderator of Zenstar Technologies to get a more wholesome view of the feedback being provided.

Using this computer tool, Zenstar Technologies can explore the needs, thoughts and the feelings of the participants. This can be used as a way to innovate further, as opposed to recycle old ideas again. Focus groups are also used to explore the perceptions towards the brand, not only Zenstar Technologies, but also of their competition. It would help Zenstar Technologies understand and gain access to information that they may not be previously aware of, which may include drivers, barriers, and attitudes towards the brand. 

Zenstar Technologies may also be able to understand not only the issues with their products but also gain insight towards consumer language. This would help Zenstar Technologies to understand behaviour, decision drivers and longitudinal or reflective behaviours.

Therefore, using a focus group would be the most appropriate and efficient way to gather the feedback that is required by Zenstar Technologies. 
Q3) B) There are three main phases used while conducting a focus group, namely, conceptualisation, interviewing, and lastly, analysis and reporting.

1) Conceptualisation: In this phase, one must determine the purpose of the study, the types of participants to be chosen for the study and one must also develop a plan for the study.

2) Interviewing: Focus groups generally last for no more than two hours, and thus there is only time for four to five questions. Thus, Zenstar Technologies must choose open ended and then move from general to specific questions. 

The moderator of the focus group must be able to deal with the more vocal participants tactfully, keep the discussion on track and ensure that each participant feels heard. This does not mean that Zenstar Technologies needs to invest in a highly paid consultant, but they should hire a facilitator who has a knowledge of group dynamics and is a good meeting leader. 

3) Analysing and Reporting: After summarising each meeting in the form of transcribing notes, it would helpful to analyse these summaries. Zenstar Technologies must look for comments that repeatedly appear in the data (trends), and also find unexpected comments that are worth looking into (surprises). Any comment that triggered emotional responses, elicited comments or was phrased in a negative manner, should also be noted by Zenstar Technologies. 

The report made should have all the information that was gathered during the discussion, but also must include details of the session(s), the results and the conclusions.

Zenstar Technologies can also try to do the following so as to gather more relevant feedback from their participants:

1) Try to create a cheerful and warm environment so as to break the ice and help in engaging with the participants. This may also keep the participants content and focused.

2) The moderator should record the session using a high quality audio or video recorder, and also should take notes during it. The discussion should be transcribed as soon as possible, as this would ensure that small details are not lost. However, it is also important to keep the participants comfortable and thus place the recording device subtly.

3) Keep control of the session as in a short period of time, one cannot afford to have the topic go off track.

4) It may be helpful to have an assistant moderator who could ensure that the recording equipment is working. He or she may also be able to take detailed notes of the session, including quotes, and also keep track of the participants body langue which may be missed by the moderator.

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