Tech is tech right? Well, sort of. It can allow us as communicators to be more efficient, effective and engaging in our digital and physical worlds.
For the IABC World Conference 2022 Listening Lounge, I spoke with Steffen Henke, global head of internal communication at Deutsche Post DHL, and Andreas Ringsted, chief solutions officer at Open Communication Group. We discussed the dance between internal communication and technology, which is the need to be involved and support the adoption of the right new technologies into an organization and the commitment needed for the core function of internal communication. Yes, that corporate communication strategic bit — that goal of communicating effectively with your people so we’re all heading in the same (and right) direction.
So what’s next? What’s beyond using video conferencing tools and email?
At the speed of the Star Trek Enterprise, technology is leaping ahead with augmented and virtual reality. Last year at the virtual IABC World Conference 2021, we demonstrated through a 3D environment how virtual spaces can be used to inspire and engage employees.
Immersive technology, which creates distinct experiences by merging the physical world with a digital reality, can cover everything from augmented reality to full, immersive virtual reality. Augmented reality is where you can use a smart phone to superimpose graphics over a real photo. For example, applications that allow you to look at how a couch may appear in your actual room through your phone and before purchase. Virtual reality uses the metaverse, a 3D environment that immerses you in the experience. This can also be experienced on desktop or mobile devices — think of games like Minecraft.
What Are the Opportunities for Communicators?
At the IABC World Conference 2022, there are three sessions on new technology and the metaverse. In addition to ours, Shel Holtz, senior director communications, Webcor, United States, and Jo Eyre, Quixel at Epic Games, South Africa, will storm the stage and delve into the metaverse.
When I spoke with Holtz about why communicators should care, he broke it down to the concept of not being left behind.
“People will be spending a lot of time in the metaverse, doing many of the things they used to do on websites”, Holtz said. “The experience will be different, so we'll have to know how to communicate effectively in this new environment.”
This parallels to what Henke said about the current importance of smartphones with employee communication. Everyone uses them. More and more, people are expecting the same quality of experience and convenience in their work environments. Virtual reality is heading in the same direction with headsets being more affordable. In some countries, you can easily rent them as you would a computer or other digital device. In Australia, many kids play 3D-environment computer games both on headsets or on desktop computers. Even school work is interactive, sound enhanced and gamified (e.g., ABC “Reading Eggs”).
There is certainly a lot of opportunity to take advantage of what this technology offers. Web 3.0 — the backbone of the metaverse — offers a new channel to play with.
Eyre agrees with our observations. “Whilst the foundations of communications remain steadfast, the channels and platforms are developing at a pace never before seen in history,” she explained. “This means it’s imperative for communicators to have a thorough grasp of how people are using new technologies, including metaverse tech, to socialize, work and find information.”
Sometimes Our Organizations Just Aren’t Ready
My session with Andreas Ringsted will give a glimpse into the future of what is possible and then stop. Freeze time. We’ll go back to the basics and look at what we as communicators need to focus on for success in all digital projects — that blend of creative with strategy, where technology is merely the enabler.
I’ve started research into new technology and communication (take the opportunity to contribute your thoughts via at the end of this article). Initial findings show that cost and organizational readiness are some of the big barriers. Our consultancy work through Open Communication also shows that some clients are still grappling with the basics.
For example, some people still need to understand the value of Microsoft Teams, how to use chat tools or even the functionality of online platforms on a daily basis. Swoop’s latest Office 365 report also discusses that email is still one of the most used channels. Many indicators point at organizations just trying to get the basics right and, as Eyre mentions in her recent IABC PodCatalyst episode, some countries like South Africa struggle with just having stable internet. I’d add Australia to this list.
Think Immersive Even If You Don’t Have the Tech
Let’s explore a new way of thinking — a different model to the pumping-out-products-through-channels model. Let’s talk about immersive communication.
It is about putting our audience in the center of the experience, using all the senses that you can, adding fun, controlling to their experience and, most importantly, not overwhelming them.
You don’t need the immersive technology to have an immersive communication mindset.
This is one of the key things Ringsted and I have learned with our 3D-environment projects for clients. It’s about the experience. Users of your space can become overwhelmed and lost if everything is thrown in without a content strategy. On one side, the experience needs to be creative, engaging and not boring. On the other side, there needs to be a strategy behind what you are doing and why.
Many marketers who play in the multisensory experience space have twigged onto this, and it is something that I believe we can apply to communication more broadly.
We look forward to sharing more with you at the IABC World Conference 2022!
Monique Zytnik is the global employee communication expert at Open Communication Group.