Apologies for the paucity of posts the past week – combination of deluge at work and the distraction of the Austin City Limits festival (very hot…saw Dylan.) But I did find the time to have a good discussion with a colleague who was suggesting that advertising agencies should all become totally media agnostic. It’s not a new concept, but it seems to be gaining momentum. To be relevant and credible, marketing folks need to start with a blank slate and look at the product and target group to confirm their outreach strategy – not the other way around. The reflex action towards broadcast – which still seems prevalent despite evidence that it rarely works – might not be the right answer. (Conversely, the equally knee-jerk idea to just “go digital” might be just as ill-advised.)

All of this talk made me reflect on the need for communication folks to follow the same mindset and become agnostic with regard to function, role and even channel. Positions that were previously dedicated to a specific audience (journalists), a channel (intranet) or a role (employee relations) are rapidly becoming obsolete. One reason is there is so much overlap across audiences – such as internal and external – and that the “toolkit” of channels is evolving rapidly. Another is that communication teams need to be responsive and dynamic in order to be relevant and effective. Trying to develop and implement a communication plan within the silos of existing labels is self-limiting and bureaucratic, and almost doomed to fail. I suggest the best orientation is to think of communities or networks – which are self-identified and are reached through conversation – rather than more general audiences.  The  strategic imperative is to find the best way to engage those communities in dialogue and provide them with enough valuable information to generate attention and (ideally) support and brand loyalty.  Specialized and niche roles will still exist – not all of us can wax poetic about pertinent government regulations, for example – but they cannot do so in a vacuum…or time-capsule.  Time to update my business card to “conversation architect.”

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