Having grown up in the 1960s I have fond memories of my youth at a time termed as the ‘Culture Decade’ with disruptive social change which caught many of the older generation by surprise. After leaving school I decided to train in telecommunications which at the time was still in an electro-mechanical age that had survived for almost 100 years. If you wanted to send a hard copy message quickly there was the telex or the telegram otherwise, it was an expensive phone call, especially when it was an overseas call. It was also a time when international air travel was expensive with a flight from London to Sydney five times more expensive than today with between five and seven stops along the way. So, like air travel the way we communicate has changed out of all recognition but today many of us are still locked in the past.
Today, to be an effective communicator you need to expert with the use of the tools of the trade but also aware of the expectations of your audience. Due to the reduction of cost, which in some cases in zero, as well as the speed of communicating digitally many people you communicate with have new and more demanding expectations. We all need to be aware of the different means of communication with social media playing an ever-important role. Younger people, such as the millennial generation, have grown up in a ‘Digitalized Age’ with very different expectations of generations such as myself as a baby boomer.
So, what should we consider when communicating today? Well, for starters you need to appreciate we are in a much more transparent age and restricting the sharing of information can very often backfire and also viewed with suspicion. Your integrity is much more open to being challenged and if you are not careful you can end up with a reputation of being untrustworthy. You must embrace the digital world and be an expert user. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. are firmly established and are now part of everyday life. Ignoring this revolutionary change in the way we communicate is not the answer. Each year the numbers using social media as their preferred way to communicate increases and it shows no sign of changing. A by-product of this phenonium has been the growth in what has been termed ‘Fake News’. Dealing with ‘Fake News’ inappropriately can have major negative consequences and in some cases a lie can be misconstrued to be the truth. Social media has enormous reach not just across a country but across the globe. Again, new skills must be learned to be ‘fit for purpose’ in this new digital world.
Finally, there is no magic wand that can be waved to take us back to where we were and to be honest who would want to return to the world I grew up in? This is probably the most exciting times since 1439 when Johannes Gutenberg introduced the world to printing using movable type that resulted in the mass production of printed books. We are very lucky to be part of this incredible journey we are now experiencing and doing the right things will help you to be not just a good digital communicator but a great communicator. Good luck.
Gordon is the former president and chief executive of BMMI. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.