The time has come. Social media has assumed its place in the world as “an adult.” Many companies and individuals no longer view it as a petulant teenager or second-class citizen when it comes to marketing, communications and driving up revenue. In fact, a great deal of Fortune 500 corporations are hiring VP’s and directors for the sole purpose of looking after their companies’ digital footprint.
It was “touch and go” there for a while. To stay with the family analogy, organizations over the last decade have experienced their share of fights about “driving the car.” Were the “web-head” millennials actually responsible enough to get the keys to the corporate mission? Were they mature enough to go out on their own to form partnerships with strangers? The answer during most of that time, of course, was a resounding “NO.” They clearly had to be chaperoned. But it should be noted the required babysitting was unrelated to the importance of digital media's evolution. It was instead, a result of some of those millennial personal habits. Most bosses know what I’m talking about: the showing up late, lack of worldliness, sense of entitlement, blah, blah, blah!
But, as any grandparent will tell you, obviously the day comes when the kids are not kids anymore. Social media - as a corporate family member - although still very young, is mature enough to take responsibility for itself, while following “rules and guidelines.” People in your company, who you have entrusted with this job, should be told what the boundaries are, and not micro-managed. They should be rewarded when goals are reached, and re-trained when goals are missed, just like anyone else.
Not everyone feels this way obviously. Respect still has to be earned from a great section of business leaders and managers, who still see social media and its digital component as “fads.” Add to that, there is still resistance by even experienced public relations or communications managers to employ digital imagery.
It seems that despite the overwhelming evidence about the importance of integrating video and images into modern communications, old habits of using speaking and writing ONLY, continue to defy the “DO NOT RESUSCITATE” order.
There are psychologists like Theodule Ribot, Oliver Sacks, philosophers such as Peter Carruthers, and scientists including autistic genius Temple Grandin, who believed that pure thought is a series of concepts and images that get stored and analyzed in the brain’s version of a video library. Some claim the written or spoken word can even inhibit thought. It’s like an author who has the story finished in his or her head, but cannot find the words to properly represent those ideas. Of course there are arguments to the contrary, but for now, stick with me on this side of the theory of communicating thought.
For most of our existence, some 6,500 languages like English, Spanish, Sign, etc have been necessary to translate the moving images in our heads to someone else’s. But that translation is rarely 100%, even when we speak the same language. That is where the value of a skilled communicator comes in: a person who uses his or her storytelling ability to make that brain-to-brain transfer, and does so using the highest reproduction resolution possible.
While this tends to be accomplished primarily with the written word and/or the gift of gab, the use of video and digital imagery is here to help us achieve a higher level of communication. It provides a clearer definition of our thoughts and should not be considered a competitor, but a complement.
Storytelling has evolved from the days of the Griot, an older woman or man, who passed down a tribe’s history with campfire tales to children. Books, newspapers and letters have also been giving the masses the opportunity to communicate through the centuries. And of course, today we have emails and E-books as storytelling continues to evolve. The integration of video is part of the current and future phase of that process. Ignoring its usefulness isn’t quite like refusing to take the car over walking. But it is like refusing to use a fast car over a slow one.
Let’s face it. What you say is so often trumped by how you say it. But today, how you say it is a visual journey unto itself. Communications, public relations and corporate branding in the 21st century should always be accompanied by a digital component. White papers, presentations, pitches, marketing material, tweets and even selected emails should be executed as part of a complete internal, external, multi-media, digital strategy.
There are excellent examples of this multi-media philosophy but one that stands out to me is NCR (National Cash Register). NCR, founded in 1884, has survived and thrived where its competitors from 130 years ago have faded into dust. It is the world leader in electronic transaction technology, which includes ATMs, pay systems and bar code scanners. A check of their website and social media platforms on YouTube and Twitter, will show you how important the aforementioned visual philosophy is to this company. Video and images are a part of almost every aspect of their communication. In my opinion, it is what makes them attractive, relevant and competitive, even during tough times. Potential customers and strategic partners who don’t read traditional business materials, now have an opportunity to know about them, and can see they are serious about the future.
While I acknowledge, that like parents staring into the eyes of their “kids” who are now in their 20’s, it can be tough to view these assets as “adults” in the business community. But in fact, they are. The days of cutting their food and picking out their clothes are well behind us all. The time for your digital tools to leave the nest is now. Let them go, watch them evolve and you'll grow too.