Three ways to digitally transform your communications

You’ve probably heard a lot recently about digital transformation. You may even have one or more of these enterprise-shaking initiatives under way in your organization. But what is digital transformation, and what does it mean for your organizational communications?

Simply put, digital transformation is the process of going from doing digital to being digital. For the most part, doing digital starts with tools that emulate processes from the analog world. Think email, PowerPoint and SharePoint sites that in turn emulate ‘old school’ postal mail, slide presentations and libraries.

Being digital starts with data – not old processes. Being digital enables rapid collaboration and communication because you are not bounded by old metaphors, processes, software or boundaries. Technology platform, operating system, space and time, or whether or not you happen to be human are not as relevant as the data that you exchange, analyze and act upon.

The tools used by digitally transformed organizations reflect this approach. Email is complemented or replaced by Slack, Chatter, Yammer or other collaborative conversational spaces, which buzz with chatbots as well as human participants. Live or interactive video steals the stage from PowerPoint. And online, interconnected productivity tools like blockchain and artificial intelligence erase software from hard drives and the boundaries between departments, people, and machines.

The impact of these transformation initiatives on organizations can be profound. There is a reason, after all, that they are called transformations! By re-thinking business processes with data at the center, companies are driving out double-digit cost savings and reinventing themselves to rake in triple-digit profit increases. And it’s time for communications to start catching up.

Getting started with digital communications:
Guiding principles and tools

You probably won’t be in a position to transform your communications just yet, but you can start preparing for your digital future today. Here are three guiding principles and three tools that you can start working with now to prepare you for a more digitally transformed future.

Digital communications starts and ends with data. Data means things you know about your audience, your company, their behaviors and how they translate into business outcomes as well as your messaging. That means if you are not measuring your communications, they are not digital – because you are missing important data that could feed into your overall communications strategy.

Digital communications is decentralized. Centralized communication and messaging has been on the way out for a while now, and digital transformations will only accelerate that change. Expect influencers throughout your organization to be messaging, publishing and collaborating with you to evolve your communications in real time. And don’t be surprised if some of your collaborators happen to be software, rather than human. AI in the form of chatbots and data repositories managed by blockchains will soon be re-defining how you interact with people, software and the internet of things.

Digital communications is interactive. Be prepared to ‘work out loud’ sharing your work in progress in open collaborative spaces. You will be relying less on status reports and more on interactive, realtime dashboards that show your progress on demand.

Three tools to help you get started
with Digital Communications

Airtable

What it is: A cloud-based database-meets-spreadsheet that comes with some great templates for communications tasks and lives in the cloud to facilitate collaborative data management.

Why it’s digital: The format of the data you put into it doesn’t matter – add photos, numbers, checkboxes, and words that can all be sliced and diced, shared and automated. And of course, there are no files – it’s in the cloud.

Where to get it: Free (with premium upgrade options) at www.airtable.com

Chatfuel

What it is: A no-coding framework and service to create chatbots for Facebook Messenger.
There are a lot of tools out there to create chatbots, but this is one of the most accessible to help you learn about chatbot concepts quickly and see what’s under the hood.

Why it’s digital: Interactive, automated and not human, chatbots are growing in popularity for everything from social and web site engagement to technical support and even employee communications.

Where to get it: Free at www.chatfuel.com for up to 500,000 users – plenty to get you started experimenting with bots! Pro plans are in the works starting at $30 / month.

Lumen 5 (beta)

What it is: A cloud-based service that uses AI to select images and parse blog post text into multimedia presentations for social media. Use creative commons licensed soundtracks and images or upload your own.

Why it’s digital: AI takes some of the work out of selecting images and design; point the tool at your blog and watch it proactively create draft videos for you with every new post.

Where to get it: Free (for now) at www.lumen5.com 

Digital transformation is coming to the world of communications - a world that is increasingly automated, mobile, visual and interactive. Experimenting with these tools today will help you start getting in the right mindset for the dynamic digital communications programs of tomorrow.

What digital communications approaches are you using today? Are there any tools you like that leverage blockchain or other automation technologies? Let me know in the comments.