I’ve been in the communication business a long time; now well into my second decade. Though I’ve witnessed many changes as the profession has evolved – most of them positive – there are also several industry characteristics that seem to stubbornly resist progress, almost like anachronisms. These aren’t so positive. Granted, this is just an unscientific tally from my personal perspective, but here is a list of communication quirks, or habits, that I’m surprised to still be seeing in the workplace:
- I’m amazed at the prominence of much-maligned PowerPoint as a communication tool. Even harsh critics seem to use the tool – with minor variations and embellishments – even as they attack the platform. Despite the introduction of plenty of new technology and platforms over the years – including more dynamic PP tools like Prezi and new visual options – the tried-and-true model remains ubiquitous.
- Interactive, digital 3-D environments like Second Life have a very low profile, and usage, despite the early hype and promise. A few cutting-edge firms use the platforms for a wide range of communication activities (including secure, enterprise versions for internal use) but many pros seem to have little awareness or interest in this technology.
- Corporate communications content is almost devoid of humor, which is so prominent in our digital lives and a key ingredient in the best marketing and entertainment campaigns. I understand some topics are serious, but the PR industry seems to have a deathly fear of humor that fuels work that is needlessly boring and forgettable.
- I still see much more “push” communication – or talking to/at our audiences – than “pull” activities, where users can access information they want, when and where they want to. Genuine conversation – which can be fostered through a range of new social media tools – is even more rare.
- Many companies still have no social media strategy. And I’m not talking about a proactive, intervention plan. Many don’t even have a defensive, passive social media program – with a basic employee policy and/or rudimentary monitoring.
- While the internet is truly global – a virtual community where distance and borders are irrelevant – many companies are still surprisingly insular and lack basic knowledge of global communication trends and differences. (One example: no awareness or recognition of the dominance of languages other than English on the Internet.)
- With apologies to my friends in IT… most IT departments in organizations remain a reluctant partner and barrier to progress, rather than a technology leader or facilitator. Yes, they have to consider costs and risks. But IT’s lack of attention to new technology and thin excuses (we can’t support that third-party platform) has made the function less relevant in many organizations.
- Finally, perhaps the most surprising…too many professionals still lead with a tactic at the expense of strategy. It’s the old shoot, fire, aim adage…with a checklist mentality focused on deliverables and activity and not on driving impactful, relevant objectives. The new version – “can you set us up with a Facebook page” – is simply an updated variation of pushing out the old employee newsletter (without clear purpose or metrics.)
Like in any industry, it can be hard to change entrenched habits. And our bosses or clients – senior executives – are often the ones pushing back on untested, new approaches. But if we hope to position ourselves as smart, agile consultants we can’t fall back on excuses and inertia.