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18th Jan 2018
3 Min Read

Getting serious about digital communications

Tony Stewart
Tony Stewart
IC & Engagement

If you’re trying to push digital communications in the workplace and don’t know anything about hardware, you’re in for a rough ride.

Visionary computer scientist, Alan Kay, said that “people who are serious about software should make their own hardware.” I say that in internal communications; people who are serious about digital communications, should be serious about the digital hardware that runs it.

Digital communications have become a key focus for internal communications practitioners in recent years, and we’ve seen a huge increase in demand for them from our clients. There’s not a boardroom in the land that isn’t telling its leaders they need to be ‘more digital’.

All too often, however, IC practitioners think digital, and they immediately think ‘software’ – emails, chatbots, social networks, news apps and intranets, whilst not considering the hardware that the software will need to be run on – phones, laptops, digital screens, tablets. “It sounds like your colleagues need an app,” is an oft-repeated but empty statement if colleagues don’t actually have the hardware to run the app on in the first place. Moreover, trying to run modern software on ageing hardware can also be a challenge.

Digital can provide metrics and statistics that print solutions can only dream of – yet print is still seemingly king of the castle when it comes to the planning and detail.

Imagine sending a magazine to print without knowing exactly what stock it will be printed on, at what size, and how it will be distributed – yet with digital that’s exactly what happens.

Software is the ultimate low-barrier channel, making it easy for people to email content for a big screen, safe in the knowledge that the software will do the leg-work and scale an image or add black bars where an aspect ratio fix is needed. And so, things like pixel dimensions and DPI often take a back seat in digital communications. But it’s these details that lead colleagues to have an emotional connection with what you’re saying, and not be distracted by the fact that your image is pixelated or stretched.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that digital is emotionless either. Digital can absolutely, 100%, create an emotional connection. Ever smile at a photo of a loved one? Ever cry at a Pixar movie? Ever laugh at an epic fail compilation? Get where I’m going with this?

For communications to be memorable, they must:

  • Be simple
  • Challenge expectations
  • Be clear and concrete
  • Have credibility
  • Evoke emotion
  • Tell a story.

How many of those factors do we negate by ignoring how digital communications will be implemented? Sure, every business has a mix of hardware, screen sizes and devices, but that doesn’t mean you need to settle for the lowest point of entry. If your boardroom has a 4K projector, make sure your presentation uses every pixel. If half your audience is without headphones, stop trying to communicate with them via video (and without subtitles) until you’ve addressed the hardware limitations.

My future prediction is that companies that put an emphasis on recruiting people with this wide range of digital skills and knowledge, relating to both software and hardware, are the ones that will prosper. This is no secret though, it’s the formula that successful start-ups have been using for years.

So, be inquisitive, read up on hardware, talk to your IT team, learn some digital terminology, and above all, if you’re taking your digital communications seriously, it’s time to get serious about your hardware. Alternatively, if you know of a smart, industry-leading employee engagement consultancy, maybe give them a shout.

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