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The unifying theory of communications: Sustain us

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unifying theoryWhen less is simply less 

Look at Earth, hanging in space, alone in darkness. After you’re done admiring the beauty of what you see, you can’t help but think, on some level:

Will we be able to sustain such a hurtling jewel?

What if we looked at communications in that context?

Sometimes communications are used in less-than-best practice.

Infographics are great. They convey information quickly. They’re on everybody’s lips.

But infographics can mislead. When infographics are over-tasked with carrying the thrust of a message alone, they fail.

Communications is about integration: a unification of channels. It’s about sustaining brilliance, about sustaining best practice.

Shaping a story

Some creatives can do graphics with great impact and shape a great story. It depends on the strategy behind the message. Infographics are brilliant tools, but success is in how infographics are used.

Words have built empires. There is no escaping our need for information. As we move into any subject, we want deeper information.

We live in a world where our communications race forward into space. Connectivity. Speed. Data blasting forward. It’s all tough to process.

Infographics are everywhere. They provide snapshots of almost anything you can imagine. Done well, they are useful, but …

How deep are some really?

The shallow end: Don’t use audiences when using data

Go out and search. You will doubtless find an infographic on what you’re looking for. Now, look for the source.

Where did the information come from?

Some infographics don’t reference where the research for the data comes from. They tell a story, but if the story’s fiction, consider its value.

Organizations have objectives. If data and infographics are used to mislead, you risk credibility.

In our race to process information, to relay information, to demonstrate concepts to people more easily, more accessibly, without demanding too much of the beleaguered audience or public, we sometimes forget to look into where the research for the data comes from.

Who did the research? If we don’t know … Are we setting up our audience, and so, ourselves for disappointment?

In these days of content curation, we still have to be conscious of where data comes from, and its interpretation. That can be difficult. Speed is of the essence.

Even the research process itself has come under repeated analysis. There have been a number of papers criticizing peer review. Often, the conclusion is, peer review may be imperfect, but it’s still the best thing we’ve got.

Questions, questions: Ask some questions

At the very least, we should ask questions about what research seems to demonstrate. We live in a time of rapid change.

Since Einstein, and beyond, we’ve learned that things are relative. We may like slow cooking, but we still have priorities related to “getting things done”. In a historical context, Einstein did pretty well without all the technology we have at our disposal today.

Take research on phones. As one of the largest manufacturers of phones used to advise us: Think different. A recent study suggested a few things about different phone manufacturers. One idea was that the wealthy / intelligent buy a certain model of phone.

What’s being suggested here? That the phone makes you wealthy or intelligent?

Let’s ask some questions: What types of phones are we talking about? Does one brand sell a greater variety of phones across a broader spectrum within a broader price range? (For example, if wealth determines intelligence, then obviously Warren Buffett and Bill Gates are smarter than Steve Jobs was.)

Which company focuses on the high-end? If a product costs more, it doesn’t take Einstein to figure out that the wealthy might buy that product.

Sheep or deep?

Questions can start to reveal bias or data manipulation. There’s a difference between interpretation and distortion of data. Insights have to be as deep as the data.

None of us are perfect, but If we use data with less-than-best-practice, doesn’t it reflect our opinion of our target audience? Our publics?

Is there an element of danger in such a strategy? How do people feel when there’s a massive pullback in a company’s stock? When IPOs and exchanges are held up as parlayers of bad practice?

Researching media reports after such errors in judgement – more often labelled as “debacles” in the media – provide clear evidence. No management team wants to see its name lit up in a reputational example of bad practice.

Need more evidence? Take a look at questions asked about the U.S. government’s reputation following the Merkel phone-tapping.

The complications involved in communicating, and various organizational debacles, are bound to affect brand and reputation. Do consumers want to know we’re burying poor references to our brands in cyberspace, or, that:

  • We’re addressing issues from stakeholders
  • Opening a channel of dialogue
  • Working hard to improve our organizations

and,

  • Willing to listen to feedback that provides insight?

Daniel Libeskind and David Chipperfield discuss why architecture is collaborative and is a form of communication. Any new building is bound to cause controversy like any great new idea. The discussion is the thing.

Flip the agenda on its head

Some believe that in a world where our communications burn across media at a faster and faster pace, the potential for backlash is vastly accelerated. But isn’t it important to consider that people are also getting more discerning? Aren’t people looking for something to believe in?

Aren’t we building a form of architecture when we reach out to talk to publics and audiences? Aren’t we better off building a foundation that lasts?

Isn’t there opportunity here? And if you’re not involved in the discussion, not seated at the table, digitally, with your publics, then, who is?

If you’re not dealing with stakeholders’ trust issues, then who is?

Won’t integrity stand out?

Peter Lynch and Warren Buffett have been cited for discussing how a company’s focus on how to spend its money (read: not spending outlandish amounts on offices, furniture, etc.) shows a competitive edge in these companies, especially for the shareholder. Does this frugality on the part of management mean that the managements of these companies aren’t intelligent?

Warren Buffett still lives in a modest house. Is he less intelligent for doing this?

Meanwhile, some companies spend a great deal on their employees including training and R&D to help stimulate creativity, engagement and innovation.

Is there more than one way to get to an outcome? In fact, is the construction of outcomes liquid? In constant flux?

A river flows out to the sea, but the way the water gets to the sea is epic. It’s a story of flow, of perpetual change. It’s the story of nature’s architecture.

A discerning audience is able to deconstruct what it sees. New York has taken steps to protect consumers from fake reviews. Is it really sound to imagine that there are no customers that have ever considered that these kinds of bad practices are going on?

Smart competitors will create smart campaigns centred around companies’ branding. Clever advertising is full of examples of a brand’s position being reframed – even if you’re reframing the idea that consumers of that brand are “creative”.

If an infographic misleads, does it take your audience where you want to go ultimately?

Information in infographics absent best practice, can mislead. What can it do to a brand?

Data can be used in a self-perpetuating, self-aggrandizing way to rationalize, what? That a product makes us look smarter? Makes us superior to others because we spend more on it?

Publics are going to change as fast as the media that bombard them. Appealing to customers will be an act of ultimate creativity. Some will do it brilliantly. Others are going to be remembered for compromising their ethics.

Customers, more than ever, want organizations that walk the talk.

Even if an organization mounts a comeback related to a major stumble, followed by negative media coverage, wouldn’t it have been better to follow a sustainable path of best practice in the first place? Wouldn’t it have been better not to suffer the reputational damage – to have more consistent growth?

Isn’t this why business schools hold ethics classes? Why reputation and trust factor large in polls? Why the Warren Buffetts of the world focus on the long-term rather than the short-term?

Are we telling stakeholders that all of this is mere lip service? Do we want to build our communications architecture like a house of cards?

Consider smartphone advertising, public relations and marketing. Just this sector is full of (depending on your opinion and metrics) winners, winners who became losers, organizational wrestling with public perception of privacy issues, the rapid pace of technological change, intense competition, shrinking margins, hype, hubris and successes that are hard to maintain.

Looking for a bullet-proof suit? It exists in best practice. The structure that sustains is the structure than can be built on.

Privacy, hacktivists and change giving birth to change

What of privacy? How much are people willing to give away? With social media, many of us are more visible, willingly, but there’s still constant debate about what amount of social media exposure is healthy. We do that regarding television, and electronics generally, too.

Hacktivists seem to be playing a major role in our public perception of networks, our personal, societal and corporate treatment of information.

Doubtless, security plays in the minds of our publics even as they increasingly give more of their information away. Security issues could impact dramatically on collaboration and information exchange, but innovation depends on such exchange.

Multiple security issues can change perception about services. New perceptions create new realities.

Many in the media and related professions and organizations are trying to appeal to their audiences. We could go on and on asking questions: The pace of change is making us move from what we are, are becoming and will be. It’s a never-ending cycle of change.

Change begets change.

Audiences and publics are undergoing ferocious transformation, and they will undergo all manner of metamorphoses as they absorb their new universes.

The portals are everywhere

In our hands. In our pockets. On our desks.

Portals. Everywhere.

Our world has become worlds. Some of us are spending as much time in virtual worlds as in real ones. Since the advent of screens and all their permutations, we’ve gained new devices offering  portable portals.

Some won’t care. Others will constantly jump on the “new”, but the reality is, sustainability of anything, idea, product, service, depends on growth. But what kind of growth?

Integration and ethics: The song that remains, sustains

Infographics work best in an integrated communications plan. They are a great tool when used wisely. Today, the way you reach out has to have a long-term focus. There may be short-term tactics, but they have to rationalize with a long-term vision. Content is everywhere, so, creators of content need to work together to move mountains.

Eventually, you have to bring people somewhere where they access deep, meaningful research or information. While short pieces are the rage for grabbing views, leading audiences to deep information increases credibility. That, in itself, is the message.

Fluff eventually blows away. Substance is permanent. A well-built foundation upholds a structure.

Unethical manipulation of public trust, of audiences, can only end badly. Look at the U.S. and world stock markets as an example. It’s only this year that retail investors have come back.  If people hold great and enduring mistrust against the stock markets, what will the impact be on innovation, societal development and wealth creation?

The great thing about asking questions is it can help you formulate long-term strategy. In a world where you want to be aware of weaknesses and threats against your organization, your society on a small and large scale, you have to focus on ways to create opportunity that resonate for the long-term. (This should be in our DNA. It’s the double helix of a virtual spiral.)

We’ve all heard pop songs that are one-hit wonders, but there are some songs that sustain us, and in turn, we sustain them.  Quality endures. We make sure of it.

In a world of change, where there are so many one-hit wonders, songs that remain sustain.

Image source: Flickr/Ted Kendell

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N.B.: When it comes to integrated communications, here are three excellent key messages:

canada digital in sync

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This work and all work on this blog is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Images: Flickr, Daily Dividend.

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Creators, travelling at the speed of light

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optoCommunications continue to hurtle forward.

At least, we’ve developed the capability to send data at 99.7% the speed of light, flying through previous speed and latency records.

In Digital at the speed of light: Who’s afraid of social media?, Social Media: A universe expanding at an incredible rate, and Social cosmology: Social media is creating its own multiverse, I blogged about how social is propelling us into the future. Social media, like any nascent technology, will have its successes and failures, but criticism sometimes misses the evolution in communication:

Speed.

It’s one big thing (there are others) that’s changed profoundly since the creation of the printing press.

Some criticize speed and new technologies. It’s good to consider where we’re going.

Will technology ever create us?

The way we live has always been impacted by disruptive technologies. Criticism of disruptive technologies is valid in that the pace of technological change is rampant and accelerating so fast that it’s almost impossible to know which tools will dominate in the long-term.

The long-term, the future, becomes the present. Social tools have already had tremendous impact. The future becomes the present faster and faster.

Some platforms will last and evolve even as they stake their claim for superiority, usefulness and usability. Criticizing technological change in communications is like criticizing the printing press. Necessary, but if we could jump hundreds of years into the future, the point might be moot.

The printing press was revolutionary. We know that. Every time I read a book, some kind of unconscious thanks travels from me to the ghost of Gutenburg and the ghosts of the Renaissance.

And men go about to wonder at the heights of the mountains, and the mighty waves of the sea, and the wide sweep of rivers, and the circuit of the ocean, and the revolution of the stars, but themselves they consider not.

— Petrarch

Will a David ever sculpt itself?

We know what the printing press enabled. Tools aren’t what we are as creators. Tools are what enable us to realize our ideas. But the ideas are ours. Michelangelo may have said that his sculptures were imprisoned in marble, but the hammer didn’t pick itself up and begin to do the David on its own.

The printing press was revolutionary. The exchange of information it enabled, equally revolutionary. Education, for the literate, was changed forever. Literacy continues to be of prime importance today. Literacy separated what people could achieve. Often, it still does.

Tools aren’t what we are as creators. Despite how much we sometimes grow to love them. We are still the creators of  ideas and content. Even if we are conduits, as some describe the experience of creation, even if the sculpture is there, imprisoned in marble, we, like Michelangelo, hold and guide the tools. We wield the tools and they enable us to work in different media, in different contexts.

We are the creators. Tools are an extension of us.

Like a paintbrush. Like a hammer. Like a keyboard.

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Written by johnrondina

March 28, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Social cosmology: Social media is creating its own multiverse

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Social media is creating its own universe.

blahoIf you really think about what’s happening, the social media/enterprise media sphere is crashing into other worlds:

Social media is creating a communications multiverse.

Fear is pervasive regarding social technologies and the empowerment it offers consumers, but companies that are dragging their collective worries, in effect, tying themselves to the gravity of a black hole of fear — should look to thought leaders.

100 of the biggest that do not live in solitude

When it comes to the Fortune 100, social media is alive and well and becoming a multiverse. The 100 were mentioned 10.4 million times in one month.

As the social media universe expands, Twitter has gone from:

  • 50 million tweets per day in 2010, to
  • +140 million tweets per day in 2011, to
  • 340 million tweets per day in March 2012

Looks like Twitter is alive and well and only beginning to explore where it can go.

  • More than 1 billion tweets are sent every three days

Imagine the intellectual capital of that … (For more stats on Twitter, see the below infographic.)

Tools are neither bad nor good

Upon invention, was the printing press bad or good? I recently had the opportunity to look at an old press. It sat there like an objet d’art — a tool that could be loved for what it could facilitate: communication.

SocialMind: Everywhere, further, faster

Some tweets aren’t what you or I may deem important. But some will contain the germ of creativity that will thrust us forward. Ideas. Concepts. High-quality information.

Consider how new Twitter still is and then use your ability to see into the future, to focus on worlds within worlds, on universes merging and acquiring information from each other, sharing and pushing the capabilities of SocialMind deeper and further, exploding the capacity of what information-sharing can bethink.  Think potential.

And there will be more tools.

What the social multiverse will become lives only in the imagination. Perhaps it hasn’t even been imagined yet:

  • 87 per cent of companies are using at least one social media platform
  • 82 per cent of global companies are using Twitter

The average number of Twitter accounts each corporate account is following increased 182% since 2010. Companies that fear the reputational damage that social technologies can create are listening to what the social multiverse is saying.

Thought leaders aren’t shrinking away from social media: They’re embracing it

Why? Because they understand the awesome power of the social multiverse.

  • Each corporate YouTube channel averages 2.02 million views
  • 79 per cent of corporate accounts engage on Twitter
  • Corporate accounts on Twitter and Facebook average more than 10 accounts on each

Companies in Europe are using accounts in mulitple languages to reach out, to inform, to embrace. Europe, by its geopolitical and multilingual construction, already knows there are multiple worlds.

Lead or resign yourself to being a follower

Raising awareness and increasing brand equity is increasingly hard to do — especially if you’re not using the channels that 100 of the greatest companies in the world are using. And if you’re not using these channels:

What does that say about your organization, and, what will your customers think of you?

Will they see you as a thought leader?

Or a follower …

We’re not talking about posting random nonsense in the social media multiverse. We’re talking about sharing and distributing high-quality content. We’re talking about communicating, about reaching out like light particles that travel boldly at break-neck speed.

These particles of light carry messages. When it comes to the quality of messages, the rest is up to us.

Reach your customer, share your intellectual capital in a way that only lived in the realm of science fiction a short while ago.

Fear of social channels will do what fear does. It will distract our attention with end-of-the-world scenarios (think Mayan calendar), but those who know the future has been changed forever are already going social.

Twitter is the most popular social media platform in Latin American. Its user growth tripled in China from Q1 to Q2, 2012 (35.5 million). This isn’t a strictly developed world phenomenon. This is a universe.

A multiverse.

Multiple possible universes, a click, a tap or a keyboard shortcut away

Multiple possible universes of information and of information-sharing, including the history of everything we’ve created, everything we know and have done … Could such tools be coming to a future near you? Twitter’s planning a massive archive available to each user.

Channels. Channels that will reach out into everything that exists and will exist. That’s the potential of social media.

If creation is cosmology, then we will create new cosmologies, new universes.

It’s coming.

When Da Vinci set down his brilliance in his notebooks, did he know that his work would live today? Did he know it would be digital? Did he know he’d be touching the face of an audience …

  • that could send short messages at the speed of light?
  • that could attach all kinds of intellectual property or images and share them in seconds?

Channels and social Galileos: Leaving behind the flat Earth

Channels can be used in mulitple ways. They are tools. What we will develop, share and disrupt with those channels will be a flat Earth that will give way to digital  Galileos finding celestial bodies, spheres. Twitter is simply one example.

Social Galileos will project their ideas and their creativity into the multiverse. Social Galileos will peer into holes in space and find new worlds. We’re already busy compiling archives of tweets that have gone before.

And we’re just peering through the portal.

Feeling gravity’s pull into the great beyond

That is the promise of these technologies: that they will bring the brilliance of our collective imagination to multiple thresholds and portals and push through like light pulled by the gravity of a black hole, bending, but finding spaces to create new worlds.

Because … we are human and we aspire toward and beyond the stars. Because … we want new worlds.

Because the next bold steps for humankind will be in the creation of our cosmologies.

 

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The social multiverse at work?

A friend of mine sent me the following, startled at how similar the beginning of it was to my pieces on the social multiverse. Interesting …

How Twitter Is Reshaping The Future Of Storytelling http://www.fastcoexist.com

Statistics: Burson-Marstellar

TNW.com

Some stats on Twitter courtesy Forbes:

twitsta

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