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Guest Column

05 June 2020

Nikhil Dey |

The Digital Gap - New Rules, New Tools, Same Game

What goes on behind the mask of a screen?

I logged into a webinar, I found the speakers were honest, down to earth and sharing real examples of how to navigate in COVID times. I stayed tuned in. Asked questions and even tried to connect with a few of the panellists post the session. An hour later, I logged into another one, the panellists were preaching and using lots of theory and frameworks that did not appeal to me.

I found an online exercise module on YouTube, there was a lovely lady enticing me into the workout. Less than 5 minutes into the session, I realised I could not keep up with her. I have now settled for a 30-minute, low impact, beginner’s workout that makes me feel good about myself.

I am always glued to a screen. Digital is the new buzz word. Every sector is abuzz with innovation, trying to figure out how to deliver value digitally. We must be careful not to miss the wood for the trees in the race to win the battle for digital eyeballs. The two simple examples I gave, about a webinar that delivered value and a workout that worked for me, was far less about the digital medium and far more to do with the message, the tone of delivery and the value I got for my time and attention.

Basic human behaviour has not changed, it is driven by core emotions that have an influence on how we live and interact with others. Happiness, sadness, fear, disgust, anger, surprise is what’s going on behind every screen. Depending on the message that is being delivered. This is what we need to focus on.

Digital wizardry, smart interfaces, quality of the audio experience are all second to the core content. If ever there was a time to pause a listen it’s now. Bringing the outside in at a time like this is a critical role of communicators. And that will be the key to getting people to listen to what you have to say.

Over the last 8 weeks, recognising the need for learning off each other within the communications fraternity, I have been hosting closed-door catchups, talking to senior communication leaders across different industry sectors to learn from them and their experiences. Here are the top 10 takeaways:

  • Culture at the EPI-centre of all communication - Communication must be rooted in organisational culture and focused on Engaging, Protecting and Inspiring stakeholders.
  • I trust people I know -The importance and power of hyper-local and involving families is at the heart of getting a message heard, understood and accepted.
  • Shine a light on forces of good - Actions speak louder than words. The intent of storytelling never mattered more, while we celebrate the heroes who are the frontlines, we need to make sure we are doing enough to take care of them as well.
  • Build in business as usual communication - Bring in threads of business messages as people are starting to tire of and tune out from too much COVID content.
  • Raw and real is the new tentpole content - Authentic, real and honesty is far more appreciated than slick and super well produced, with no real message.
  • Collaboration at an all-time high - Frenemies and strange bedfellows is the way to go. Be open to and seek out ways to collaborate. 
  • Tell the CSR story tastefully - Do what needs to be done. Don’t expect applause.
  • Focus on feelings - What do your stakeholders want to know or hear from you, not what you want to tell them. Think from their point of view and then craft your communication.
  • Be kind to yourself and others - WFH is not about being perfect. Dogs, cats, kids and significant others will enter the picture. It’s ok.
  • Speak when you have something to say - Don’t feel pressured to communicate just because everyone else is. Adding to the clutter won’t help. Staying connected, checking in, active listening is equally important.

Experience coupled with a beginner’s eyes of innocence is what’s working. Stay tuned into your stakeholders and seek to serve them. Digital just happens to be the way we are currently engaging with each other. Don’t let the dazzle of digital take your eye off the real goal - Connecting with your audience in a meaningful way. New rules, new tools, Game on.