Communication and technology go hand in hand. Are you registered for “Digital Acumen for Business Communicators,” the three-part webinar series hosted by Dr. Lilian Ajayi-Ore, Ed.D. that kicks off on Tuesday, 25 October? As you prepare to enhance your digital acumen, take a look at this excerpt from “The IABC Guide for Practical Business Communication: A Global Standard Primer.” In the excerpt, Shel Holtz gives an overview of exploring varieties of technology for communication.
Grab your copy of “The IABC Guide for Practical Business Communication” and turn to chapter 11. Still need a copy? Find out how you can access yours below. Then, register for the webinar series and get ready to up your digital communication strategy.
Communication and Technology, Shel Holtz
The organizational communications industry has had an uneasy relationship with technology. Frequently late to adopt technologies, lagging well behind our colleagues in the marketing and advertising professions, communicators too often wait until platforms have become popular with the very audiences they want to reach, jumping on a very crowded bandwagon.
Intranets are a case in point. Despite a host of new technologies that employees have embraced while spending less and less time on websites, intranets (along with email, which is more than 50 years old) remain the primary means of sharing information with employees in most companies.
The reasons for communications’ sluggish adoption of technology range from a lack of resources to comfort with existing platforms. The result is missed opportunities as communicators miss connecting with people where they are, on the platforms they have enthusiastically adopted. As this chapter is being written in late 2020 and early 2021, marketers and advertisers have latched onto TikTok, the app for sharing short videos, while few in the world of public relations have identified any uses for it. Yet key audiences are spending an average of 52 minutes daily on the app. (TikTok has been downloaded well over 2 billion times – mostly by teens – and has 800 million users worldwide, making it the ninth largest social network, ahead of LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and Snapchat). A billion videos are viewed on TikTok every day. In early 2021, Clubhouse erupted on the scene, suddenly making social audio a very big deal, with people like Bill Gates and Elon Musk commanding the attention of thousands who joined their Clubhouse rooms. (Statista, 2021)
Another group of communicators is quick to adopt new technologies – too quick. These communicators are prone to chasing a shiny object, attaching their companies’ names to a tool without a strategy designed to produce measurable results.
In this chapter, we will explore the varieties of communication technologies available to communicators along with an approach for determining the value of the technology and how to apply strategic planning principles to its use.
The Benefits and Drawbacks of Technology
Technology has historically led to improved productivity, saved time, and easier ways to accomplish tasks – but often only following a period of painful disruption. The term “luddite” which describes people opposed to the introduction of new technology – comes from Ned Ludd, who led protests and violence opposing the Industrial Revolution. The introduction of the automobile was criticized by the entrenched industries that supported the use of horses for transportation (like buggy whip manufacturers). The television industry complained bitterly about video tape recorders. The music industry objected strongly (and through the courts) to the ability to download MP3s of music tracks.
Most of the technology introduced these days has one thing in common: It is digital technology. Digital technology is often an improvement over older tools. Email, for example, gets information (including attachments) to you immediately; no need to wait for the postal service to deliver it. Digital photography means no more visits to the drug store to send your roll of film off for processing; you can post images instantly (and print high-quality copies on a $200 printer, if you need to). Even word processing software like Microsoft Word or Google Docs is a dramatic improvement over typewriters with their worn-out ribbons and the need to use carbon paper to produce a copy.
None of this means new digital technology is a must for every communicator. One of the big complaints among employees in many organizations is the proliferation of digital tools, too many for them to learn and check frequently enough for them to make a difference. Then there are the employees who don’t have access to the tools, such as those out on the factory floor, where phones are often banned as a safety and security precaution. (I work in the construction industry, where the hourly union workers in our labor force don’t even have company email addresses.)
You should be asking questions about new technologies you are considering adopting to determine whether the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. Later in this chapter, I will share the three things technology can actually do (yes, only three).
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