The new 'three R's' for business communicators

The old school three R's…those white things for you youngsters out there are called 'books.'

The old school three R's…those white things for you youngsters out there are called 'books.'

To say that the organizational communications landscape is changing quickly would be an understatement. Just as communications professionals are wrapping their heads (or not) around social and collaborative communications tools, the rise of video-based messaging and communicating in the ‘there’s an app for that’ era, an entire new wave of technologies and ways of doing business are poised to completely reinvent business communications. 

We all know that messaging, audience targeting and measurement – PR and internal communications fundamentals that are our version of ‘reading, writing and arithmetic’ – are still the foundation of impactful communications campaigns. But how we apply them is rapidly evolving. To be effective – or even relevant – in this new era, communications professionals will need to embrace a new set of skills based upon what I’m calling the new “three R’s” for early twenty-first century communications: Reach, Robotics and Realities.

Reach. Getting the message to where the consumers of your information are is not a new concept. But where those consumers are looking has changed quite a bit. Not only are employees looking to mobile platforms for their news and information more than ever, they are looking outside the organization to third party resources and to each other in online communities. Exclusively internal messaging isn’t really a thing anymore, and unlike in years past, your leaders may or may not be seen as the most credible source of information about your company. Media monitoring is going to get more important for internal communications, and it’s time to start thinking beyond the browser to messaging and other apps that may be important sources of information for your stakeholders.

Robotics. I had my first conversation with an artificial intelligence named Eliza (you can meet her online here) back in the late 1980s. It was primitive technology, and really only served to demonstrate the concept of human / non-human interaction in a roughly therapeutic context rather than pretend to be a serious attempt to pass the Turing test. Back then, the state of the art in AI made chatbots little more than a toy. Today, computing power has advanced enough to allow the rise of some genuinely useful intelligent agents. With the introduction of bots for technical and customer support, plus widespread use of more sophisticated AIs such as Siri, Cortana, and Alexa, the acceptance of completely automated sources of information is well under way. Your teenager may already be getting fashion advice from an H&M chatbot on Kik. How long will it be before HR has a chat bot to answer benefits and basic policy questions? Or until your non-crisis media inquiries are handled by a bot attached to your company’s app or online press room? Facebook is already inviting your brand to get its bot game on using messenger, so those days may be upon us very soon.

(Enhanced) Realities. If you have not been taking a serious look at virtual reality or mixed reality applications for your workplace and your brand, it’s time to start. In the past few weeks, the technologies that enable creating a layer of information on top of reality – or creating entirely new experiences in virtual worlds – have become more accessible to developers and consumers alike. Watch Facebook’s Oculus Rift and new gear from Samsung and HTC coming soon in the consumer space for VR experiences, and check out the incredible possibilities for gaming, brand experiences, training and even reinventing the workspace presented by Microsoft’s HoloLens and the mysterious gear coming soon from Magic Leap.

It’s a brave new world for communicators. These days keeping up isn’t enough – it’s time to start thinking ahead. In future blog posts, I’ll go into aspects of these new ‘3 R’s’ in more depth and give you some concrete ideas of how to leverage them in your role as a business communicator.