Reflections on Inflections10 years ago
The relentless growth of all things digital is blurring boundaries and precipitating change on a massive scale. Going forward, writes Aedhmar Hynes, the PR sector needs to invest heavily in training so that the best parts of traditional communications can
The year is still relatively young and there’s no time like the present to take stock of where our profession stands at the moment. We are at a monumental inflection point. Certainly the focus is on all things digital, which in retrospect shows just how prescient Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher were several years ago when they coined that term for their annual technology confab.
The rush to digital, in fact, isn’t just happening in bits and bytes but by leaps and bounds. As much as any of the traditional communications disciplines would like to think it sits at the center of the universe, digital’s march through the organization knows no bounds. It affects, sales, finance, HR, legal, etc., just as much as it is driving new strategies and tactical applications in public relations, marketing and advertising. In a buzzword, it has been socialized across the enterprise along with customers, competitors and every other nook and cranny across the ecosystem.
It has greatly impacted the telemetry of what we do as communicators along every axis we either attempt to influence or must monitor and heed. Time is moving faster; the speed and size of our universe is expanding, and the expectations of management and clients for our mastery over all of it continues to grow exponentially.
While this observation may not necessarily be profound, the direction in which we are heading will have a zero sum outcome for the future of the communications profession and how it is regarded in the C suite. There are numerous work streams currently in progress attempting to define what the landscape of the future will look like and what and how the dynamics will interact; where there is likely to be friction in the system; and how to define and measure success. It is a daunting but exhilarating challenge but by tackling it on multiple fronts we should expect a glimpse of our future to take form.
The PR, marketing and advertising triumvirate will continue to morph into something both tangentially recognizable but wholly different from the demarcated responsibilities that separately define each today. We’ve already seen offshoots and specialty beachheads forming over the last five years. More specialization will become the norm yet we can ill afford to let specialization define who we are. We need to think, act and behave as one cyclonic force that can alter the brand; engage customers; fend off competitors and ultimately increase preference and positively impact sales, influence, awareness and to a host of other metrics to which we will be held.
That shouldn’t surprise us since it’s really all about what we’ve been doing all along. Persuading. Educating. Communicating. Anticipating. Except that it all is happening in real time in all mediums in all markets ad infinitum.
We need to continue to work with a mix of old and new. We need to continually push ourselves to think what comes next. Will brand journalism’s ascent balance traditional journalism’s decline? Is curation the answer to the social and information tsunami that continues to overload our abilities to consume, process and act upon inputs to guide and counsel businesses? To wit, the United Nation’s International Telecommunication Union reported in November that total global cellular telephone subscriptions are approaching 5 billion. Even if just a fraction of the devices attached to these subscriptions are smart phones, (Gartner estimated Q210 shipments worldwide at 325.6 million units), it’s almost unimaginable to comprehend the ability to consume and create content – and to shape conversations – on a minute to minute basis.
One thing is absolutely certain: we need to invest heavily in training – for new joiners as well as junior professionals and veteran staff. While younger people may be all thumbs in this regard (in this case a good thing) those less dexterous may be disinclined to participate.
Don’t take ‘no’ for an answer or let people evade the classroom. Everyone needs to get on the bus. We all need to recognize and accept the transformation in our business and in business in general.
We don’t need to completely abandon the tools of the past and our comfort with how things have been done historically but we do need to recognize why we need to change. And as Nineteenth Century academician and clergyman Cardinal John Henry Newman observed so long ago, "to live is to change and to be perfect is to have changed often." We just need to be smart about it.
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