Our Thinking

Re-looking at the rush to digital

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Does the trend to digital mean that traditional communications are effectively… dead?  That all of your traditional communication tools (newsletters, magazines, brochures, booklets, etc) are destined for the trash heap?  One only needs to look at the sorry plight of the newspaper business to see that the future doesn’t look rosy. The world has changed.

Or have we so bought into the inevitability of technology that it has blinded us to what we are giving up?  And have we left many of our key target audiences frustrated, disengaged, or abandoned?  Consider your own behavior:

  • Do you really love receiving email blasts, or are you swimming in email overwhelm and rarely open everything sent to you?
  • Do you always remember the password to every website?  And are you super-enthused about keeping your accounts and profiles up-to-date?
  • Do you really engage in everyone else’s Facebook page, Tweet chats, LinkedIn groups, and other social media efforts, or are you generally indifferent to their efforts to engage you?  (Or maybe you actively choose not to use Facebook or other social media sites, for reasons of privacy.)
  • Do you really love using a mobile event app, or do actually prefer a printed program so you can easily write notes.  (And not worry if your smart phone runs out of power.)
  • And finally, has your vendors and partners rush to digital actually improved your relationship with them?

For many people, the answer to many of these questions, sadly, is no.  Digital is not the solution to every problem, and sometimes it creates completely new issues.

  • In the 1970s, the advent of computers heralded the age of the paperless office.  Today, we have more paper than ever.
  • In the 1980s, the advent of email heralded the end of traditional mail.  Today, 86% of all email traffic is spam (Cisco, 2016.)
  • In the mid-1990s, the advent of social media heralded the age of digital connection and personal empowerment.  Today, many are spooked by their loss of privacy.

Most sophisticated organizations understand it is the synthesis between digital and the real-world that creates connection and opportunity.  And for this reason, any digital initiative needs to be planned not just from an “implementation” perspective, but also a “process integration” perspective as well, with the key audiences at the center of every effort.

While today’s hot topic might be Digital Transformation with a capital D and capital T, some of the heavy lifting is surprisingly easy, and just plain common sense.  Consider the evolution of a simple monthly “print” newsletter or magazine:

  • Stage One – Traditional:  Print version sent via traditional mail.
  • Stage Two – Early Web:  Print version translated into an “e-zine” and blasted to everyone on the list.  (And posted on the website, sometimes as a PDF.)
  • Stage Three – Process Change:  Print version cancelled, and replaced with content delivered as individual blog posts, social links, and an email summary of the month’s posts.
  • Stage Four – Measurement and Awakening:  Hey, not many people are reading this stuff anymore, let alone “engaging” with it.
  • Stage Five – Audience-centered:  Continue as above, but blog posts repurposed into alternative formats.  This may include white papers, books, events, and other digital and non-digital formats.  (And it might also mean a print version sent via traditional mail.)

Marketing insights:   Stage Three – Process Change is special because it improves internal efficiency, in this case changing the editorial process from a batch mode to a continuous one.  Stage Four – Measurement and Awakening is important because it speaks to the importance of market research, measurement, and alignment.  Stage Five – Audience-centered is important because it puts the focus on delivering value to key audiences.  Digital Transformation is not about websites, mobile apps, or databases: it is about using these tools to achieve the benefits of Stage Three and Stage Five, with an always-on Stage Four.