It’s no secret that the tussle between good old faithful print and super shiny digital has been raging on for some time now. And on, and on and… you get the picture. And with good reason. Both platforms have well rounded arguments for and against them.
Digital is savvy, it’s responsive, it gives you what you need now, now, now and it updates in an instant – saving both time and cold hard cash, plus any costly errors in any information we’re sharing (yep, it happens). It also gives you, again instantly, the gold mine of treasure that is measurement on user preference and feedback.
But hang on. Print isn’t without its virtues. It’s tactile, it’s easier on the eye for large amounts of information and it’s a welcome break from screen after tiny screen that bombard us from our waking moment, through our commute, our working day and then back at home when we’re ‘relaxing’ again. It’s quicker and cheaper to produce in the first instance (getting digital platforms right takes time and investment), and it’s universal. Let’s face it – no one ever needed a set of instructions for a book.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to how every single person in every single department accesses need to know and want to know information across the board to do their jobs; and do them well, with pride, without frustration and with empowerment.
Add to that the variations in the amount of time we have on any given day, the locations we’re working from – which can easily change to suit every day of the week – never mind the logistics involved in either transporting materials around with us or accessing secure (or even just consistent) network connections, then it soon becomes clear that you can’t pigeon-hole departments, teams or job roles into using one single internal communications platform.
It might not just be quite as crazy as you think. Print and digital working in harmony is already becoming commonplace and well established (and executed) in commercial realms. And that’s not by happy accident. On a daily basis we all filter information as and when we want it, based on a need to know/want to know versus the time you have basis, often from the same source, just in different ways.
Take Wired magazine for example. The creative team there work as one team across both print and digital media, taking up residence in the same creative space. One department, “upholding Wired’s visual legacy” and “sharing responsibility for the visual executions across the entire brand”. Not only are the channels aligned under one cohesive ‘brand’ both visually and in terms of content, but this way of thinking is immersive in that teams physically sit alongside each other as one. How else can you communicate with your people in one voice, if you can’t communicate across teams easily, every day?
So there’s no reason that as internal communications professionals we can’t adopt the exact same approach and create one umbrella ‘communications brand’ that simply houses a whole suite of channels in one strong voice.
There’s no denying that neither print nor digital shouldn’t just be simply lumped together with content created en masse for both – it’s imperative that content form and type should be curated and created in a fit-for-purpose fashion, aligning the right messages, for the right people, through the right channels, at the right moment in time.
But let’s not forget that each of those ‘right’ touch points will flex and change throughout the course of an hour, day, week or month. Because of this, print and digital should connect and interweave to create a big picture of the information a business is trying to deliver to, and share among colleagues. The two should inform, develop and drive each other to be a stronger, better-rounded whole, rather than two very separate parts, which sit as silos and ‘only ever do this’ or ‘only ever say that’.
The trick will be to establish the investment in time and money to do both, well and together. Both absolutely need the time and investment to launch these channels with careful consideration given to the specific balance needed between the two for each individual business. If companies create one internal communications brand with a collaborative collective of channels that talk to, inform and support each other and the messages being shared, surely this can only encourage colleagues, departments and businesses to do the same.
The truth is, print never ‘died’ in favour of digital, and it isn’t, or shouldn’t be, in constant battle with it; its focus has just moved with time to form a solid foundation for digital communications to be built on. If anything, we may now hold print in higher regard than ever. Rather than printing absolutely everything, we’re taking the time to truly consider what we include in our printed news publications, and whether it is best placed/worth shouting about there, or more suited (for the benefit of both businesses and employees) to other channels.
Time to call that truce and make print and digital friends.