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The challenge for Generation X

Date Posted: 15/03/2017 12:15:00
Posted By: Geometry PR

David Mclean looks at the challenges of corporate communications in the modern world...

I can’t be the only one who gets lost in amongst all the various devices, screens, browser windows, messages and emails they have open at any one time.

As I’m writing this I want to refer to a news story to illustrate a point. I’ve got the news story open somewhere, but is it on my phone or laptop? Is it in one of the many browser tabs I have open, or was it on messenger? Did somebody send it via a link in an email?

It’s here somewhere…

Ah! There it is. In a browser window on my smartphone.

The daily confusion and disorientation most of us suffer with information/communication overload illustrates the challenges of managing corporate communications in 2017.

As well as the ‘traditional’ channels such as TV, radio, news websites and (to a lessening degree) print newspapers and magazines, we also have the many social media channels we subscribe to, as well as the personal communications channels we use daily.

Within each of those we will be watching or listening to several things at once, and having several conversations at the same time.

So if we are all living our lives like this, how the hell do you manage an effective communications campaign in amongst all that noise?

It was so easy back in the past before Web 2.0 (when social media arrived) and before the arrival of mobile gadgets. We watched TV, listened to the radio, read newspapers and magazines, and occasionally looked at quaint websites for background information.

Managing a corporate communications campaign was straightforward. It just required planning and diligence. It was all so polite and genteel.

However, the wind of change has been breath-taking. We no longer live our lives in that quaint, organised and genteel manner, and as a result we need to approach corporate communications in a fundamentally different and more dynamic way.

By way of illustration; a survey has just been released that reveals 82% of children in Netfix-only homes don’t know what a television advert is. Indeed, 38% of children in regular TV homes don’t know what a TV advert is.

Ponder that for a moment and reflect on how different the experience of children is today compared with our experience when we were children.

If you’re a toy manufacturer planning your Christmas campaign, you need to think long and hard about this. Will the traditional idea of a TV and magazine ad campaign reach your target audience?

My 11 year old son rarely watches regular TV these days. He prefers to watch YouTube on his tablet or via our Internet enabled TV. YouTube seems to be where his age group goes for entertainment these days, and SnapChat is how they communicated with each other, often at the same time.

For many Generation X people who work in business, the sheer scope of this change can be understandably intimidating and difficult to comprehend. Faced with the headache of trying to understand it all while running a business, the temptation is to stick to your guns and continue to do things the old way.

Unfortunately, unless your audience is other Generation Xers, you can’t afford to stick to that approach anymore. You will only get a decreasing return on investment from your marketing and communications budget, especially if you need to reach out to a wider demographic.

As society increasingly moves from the ‘old ways’ to the ‘new ways’ of communicating and interacting, you need people with a foot in both worlds to manage your communications. These will be people who understand and are skilled in the old traditional ways of corporate communications, but who also understand the way modern media and communications work and, crucially, how all of these channels impact and influence each other, and how they can be used to support each other.

That last point is important, because it’s a temptation to treat things like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YourTube etc as standalone distinct entities, when in fact they are very much reliant and influenced by each other.

So in conclusion, yes it’s complicated, and yes it’s frustrating. But the bottom line is that you have more ways to reach your audience than ever before. Don’t fear it, embrace it.