Tim Larson at the University of Utah defines the terms in the following way:
- Communication — The communicating of information. The exchange of information between individuals, for example, by means of speaking, writing, or using a common system of signs or behavior.
- Communications — The technology and systems used for sending and receiving messages, for example, postal, telephone, radio, TV and the Internet. The tactics used to execute a marcom (marketing communication) strategy, for example, advertising, PR, sales promotion, events....
When I hear that someone works in communication, I think of public relations or maybe advertising or marketing. I also think about rhetorical critics, media effects researchers and orators. Perhaps that person even works in visual media or is a journalist if you stretch the term a bit. However, communications is more akin to a trade than a particular profession in my mind. I envision a lineman up a telephone pole or a lady setting up a radio antenna. Some telemarketers might even say they work in telecommunications.
In another way, communication is the strategy and creativity. It is the planning and managing that takes place first, and then communications are employed (through various media, whether the medium is print or Web or whatever) to get those formulated messages across.
So I suppose the moral of the story is, think before you speak, especially around someone who works as a communication scholar or professional, or they might just refer you to the cable company instead of the PR firm.
As always, I'd love to hear your comments and experiences regarding this blog post!