Today is the slowest day of technological change you will ever witness according to digital marketing consultant Paul Sutton. He’s here with a guest post to share his thoughts on tackling technological change and share news of an upcoming event in London.

I’ll hand you over….

How to Tackle Technological Change

If you pause briefly to consider that opening statement, it’s pretty terrifying. The rate of change in communications technology is utterly relentless. And even as someone whose job it is to understand what’s happening, until recently it was starting to scare the bejesus out of me.

Technology affects every single person working in communications today, and that’s equally as true if you’re the Internal Communications Manager for a council as it is if you’re the Public Relations Director for a consumer brand.

Why?
Perhaps because it’s a scary prospect, there’s a common misconception among both internal and external communicators that it’s ‘someone else’s responsibility’ to stay up to date with technological change; that ‘my’ job is somehow insulated and that anything relevant will eventually find its way to me.

Nothing, however, could be further from the truth. There is no job role and no industry that is immune from the onslaught of communications technology. The only person responsible for your future is you.

Astonishing Comms Technology
The eagle eyed among you may have spotted that a couple of paragraphs ago I said “until recently” it was starting to scare the bejesus out of me. I, like many others immersed in digital communications, was feeling overwhelmed by things such as the ever-changing functionality of social networks, the sudden rise of audio communications and the looming impact of artificial intelligence.

And then something changed.

Back in November I started to flesh out the agenda for Digital Download Live 2019, the annual event that seeks to educate and inform progressive professionals about the latest thinking in digital communications. In doing so, I spent a lot of time looking technological trends straight in the face. I read a lot about the latest communications tech and I weighed up what’s really important to know and what can wait. (For now, at least.)

I uncovered some pretty astounding stuff.

For example, did you know that a company called OpenAI has refused to release the results of the initial pilot programme of a revolutionary AI text generation system because it is too good?

The company’s founders are concerned about the implications of potential misuse.

Feed the system the opening line of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four – “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen” – and the system recognises the tone and style, and continues with: “I was in my car on my way to a new job in Seattle. I put the gas in, put the key in, and then I let it run. I just imagined what the day would be like. A hundred years from now. In 2045, I was a teacher in some school in a poor part of rural China. I started with Chinese history and history of science.”

Incredible, huh?! It deals equally well with factual newspaper reports, accurately determining the full context of stories and pulling and inputting relevant quotes and facts from elsewhere.

No input from a human
And then there’s Google Duplex, the game-changing voice assistant that can have natural-sounding telephone conversations with people to do things like make appointments with no input from a human.

So convincing is it that the human on the other end of the line has no idea whatsoever that they’re talking to a robot.

A realisation

In the face of all this and much, much more, you may have forgiven me for cancelling Digital Download Live this year and going instead to live on a remote island in the South Pacific.

But the more I thought about it, the more I came around to the realisation that what really matters to us as people, is other people. We crave meaningful human connection.

Why do you read this blog? It’s because of Rachel Miller, someone who you’ve come to know, like and trust. (Thanks Paul – Rachel).

Could a robot write this very article? Yep. And it could do an equally good job of it as me in a fraction of the time. But would you subscribe to an AI-generated blog? Probably not.

It’s easy to be scared of communications technology for multiple reasons. Maybe you’re scared to expose yourself to it for fear of what you’ll find. Maybe you’ve seen behind the curtain already and don’t know where to start. But either way, the paralysis this causes is unproductive and damaging.

The key with technological change in our industry is to make sure that you understand the impact it is having; learn and make use of some of the great software out there that can make you more productive and efficient; and focus on the human aspects of your job.

That’s where, arguably, internal communications has an advantage over external comms. Internal comms is very much about people. It’s not about social media algorithms, sales funnels, brand exposure and optimising contact and visibility, all of which can be done by robots.

And it was this realisation – the balance of technology and humanity – that enabled me to put together what I believe is the perfect agenda for Digital Download Live 2019.

Collaborative learning

Before you think ‘not another conference’, let me be totally clear about this: Digital Download Live is a hybrid event. It is a combination of workshops, presentations and audience-led Q&As. It’s not one of those conferences where you just go and sit in a vast auditorium for six hours listening to people talk.

Your regular blog host Rachel came in 2017 and thought it was the best event she’s ever been to!! OK, I’m putting words in her mouth, but I know that Rachel only values events where she gets involved and genuinely learns something. You don’t want to feel like the smartest person in the room at a conference! (I did indeed attend in 2017 and really enjoyed it, I’m pictured there below, deep in thought during a group exercise! – Rachel).

It takes place on 16 May 2019 at a super-cool London venue, and this year the day is split into two halves. During the morning we’ll learn how to utilise some of the latest communications technologies, and in the afternoon we’re going to look at some of the human aspects of digital comms.

From an internal communications perspective, the technology side includes a practical workshop on AI tools that you can start to use right now in your everyday working life to automate certain tasks and enable you to focus on using your brain and adding value. It also covers audio technology, and with speech-to-text, voice recognition and podcasting all making their way inside the workplace, this is an area that offers huge opportunities for communicators across the board.

The human side includes a workshop on enhancing your creativity and visual storytelling that, while it uses Instagram as a base, can be applied to any internal or external media. And it also features a discussion about transparency, vulnerability, authenticity and meaningful communications in its truest sense.

What I’d love to see this year is the internal communications industry well-represented.

As I’ve said, digital communications technology affects all of us and you simply cannot bury your head in the sand much longer. You’re the only person responsible for your future.

If you’re interested in coming along, you can find full details on the agenda, special guests and booking at www.ddl19.co.uk. And why not ask Rachel if she thinks it’d be worth your while? I’d really love to see you there.

Post author: Paul Sutton.

Thank you Paul. You can find him on Twitter @ThePaulSutton. We recorded a podcast together last year, which you can find via my blog and below on The impact of digital on internal communication.

 

I did indeed enjoy Digital Download Live when I went a couple of years ago. See the website to find out more information and book your place at Digital Download Live on Thursday 16 May. It’s happening at Lumiere London, Southwark.

Unfortunately I’m unable to attend this year as I’ll be speaking at #PRSAConnect on the same date in Phoenix, Arizona. The early bird tickets for that conference end today.

Thank you for stopping by

Rachel.

First published on the All Things IC blog 23 April 2019.

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