PRAXIS2022 – Revamping Communications for the Digital Age

The Digital Age has changed the way people communicate. ‘Digital’ is the new normal now. But we do notice that technology contributes to the ‘noise’ that often distracts people from messaging effectively; but, without a doubt, we know that it can be a great asset for effective communication. While we are living in a digitally-mobilised world today, the traditional communication channels have evolved and undergone major transformation, but the objective remains the same – to captivate consumers by developing innovative content.

So, has communication truly evolved to capture the imagination of new-age users? 

“Revamping Communications for the Digital Age” was what Michael Stewart, Global Corporate Affairs & Communications Leader, PwC spoke about. Starting with a brief snapshot of the digital ecosystem today, he elaborated on some key trends that all of us in our profession need to understand and interpret.  Apart from dispelling myths that exist about the digital ecosystem, he spent some time going a little bit deeper on the Metaverse – the ‘term of the year,’ as he put it. 

No dividing line between traditional communications and digital communications today

The bottom line was crystal clear – “There is no dividing line between traditional communications and digital communications today. That is going to be more and more so, as we go forward”. 

A key theme he outlined was that the smart phone is the dominant device for accessing the internet for all ages around the world, (with all facts in place) – that 91% of 16-64 year olds use smartphones as the primary device for accessing the internet, and in India that is 94%. So, the implications are that content and engagement needs to be smart-phone and a social-first approach, as a mindset. How are we going to capture, the imagination in that second? How do you start that spark of engagement that can then lead to further engagement?  “Things like great design, visualisation in your storytelling, use of compelling data, infographics, are the things that are going to pop and capture people’s attention.Things that marketers have focused on for a long time, are now essential for us to cut through,” he explained. 

It was loud and clear – video is the dominant content format. Tiktok has played a major role in this. When you saw all the viral things that were happening in Tiktok, everyone started to take note – Fb, instagram, (who were not focused on video nearly as much). They’ve all started to think about how they use it. Facebook has prioritised Reels, they’ve increased engagement in Reels (their video component) by 280% in the last quarter. 500 million people now watch Facebook videos every single day. Highly compelling video, thumb-stopping video, has to be a part of your tool-kit, he advised. Or you’re not going to be getting the kind of engagement that you need. 

As far as messaging platforms go, the top five messaging platforms collectively have 5 billion users monthly, and “two-thirds of humanity are on messaging platforms,” he assured. A quarter of whatsapp users, use it to access news. Marketers have always been ahead in using this. But we’ve got to figure it out, because they are only going to continue to grow. They are global, and what’s prominent is that every region has their own, that are dominant.

Our beloved algorithms are not going away and they are getting more and more challenging. That’s why so many media companies are trying to get back behind a paywall. In addition, third-party cookies are largely disappearing in large parts of the world. Google is doing away with them, because there are a number of concerns. 

With the evolution of AI, we are seeing a revolution setting in. Artificial intelligence is empowering people to approach imaginative endeavors in a unique way. In fact, Michael focused on AI powered hyper personalisation. It is coming faster than any of us understand, he revealed. What’s important is that user experience is going to become unbelievably powerful, because it’s going to be richer. It’s going to know you better. “But it is also ripe for manipulation. That’s the flip side. It knows you sometimes better than you know yourself,” was his warning. 

Keying in on Metaverse, he shared – “when I started tipping my toe into Metaverse, I felt ‘Oh God here we go, second life on steroids. The money is going to be wasted, the stupidity of things that corporates are going to do! I took a lot of time looking at it. It’s a personal interest of mine. It’s real”. But on the other side, he pointed out that there is still absolutely no agreement on what the definition of the Metaverse is going to be. There are many different thesis-driven bets on what it will be. Some think it will just be a virtual reality gaming on steroids with different use cases. Some believe it’ll be holograph-driven, where you’ll be able to meet virtually or perform tasks, that you couldn’t do otherwise and so on. 

Owning your destiny!

In a dialogue with Vandana Sandhir, India Lead Six Degrees BCW & Chief Client Strategy Officer, BCW India Group, one pertinent question came up – in this digital world, how can communication enable business with strong outcomes? His answer was that the expectations of business have changed dramatically and our purpose has to be a genuine. 

Putting a fix on ‘talent’, how do we need to reconstruct our communication team? “I look for horizontal interest, the curiosity to learn new things. There’s no ‘magic’, we need to be far more creative”, was his prompt reply. 

When asked about what is the secret sauce to blend it all, his quick take was – Öur strategy is clear. We want our offices in different countries to own their destiny!

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

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Shree Lahiri
Shree is the Senior Editor at Reputation Today and hopes to move from one focus area to another in the editions that will be released this year. Having worked in Corporate Communications teams, she has experience of advertising, public relations, investor and employee communications, after which she moved to the other side – journalism. She enjoys writing and believes the power of the pen is indeed mighty. Covering the entertainment beat and the media business, she has been involved in a wide range of activities that have thrown open storytelling opportunities.

She can be reached at: @shree_la on twitter

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