This past summer's conferences - IABC's in Los Angeles, and the Employee Communication Exchange(*) conference sponsored by Target Vision in Panama City, Fla. - brought together many of the leading communicators from around the world. These conferences offered an invaluable opportunity for Communication World to discuss issues concerning these leading professionals, their organizations, and the future of the profession. In particular, we wanted their views on the effect of new and emerging technology on their communication strategies.
In Los Angeles during IABC's international conference we conducted "man on the street" interviews with the following participants:
Roger D'Aprix, ABC, former principal, William M. Mercer, Inc., and now a self-employed consultant.
Ron Martin, director of communication, Seagrams, New York City (and former IABC chairman).
Paul Sanchez, international director of Watson Wyatt's Communication Consulting Practice, New York City.
Ron Sconyers, Brigadier General and director of public affairs, U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C.
Questions by Gloria Gordon
GG: What do you see as the most critical issues facing communicators in the next five years?
Ron Martin: I think things are changing so rapidly with technology that for us to keep up the skills that are going to be required to work with that technology will keep us very busy.
Just the rapid changes, the rapid development, of what's happening with technology is probably the greatest challenge we have. We will continue to work in an environment with a great deal of uncertainty. As communicators, we must learn to become comfortable with that change, which will continue - there won't be an end to it.
Ron Sconyers: We have focused so much in the past on tactical communication that we have forgotten that the business of communication has a strategic presence to it as well. It's important that we, in the near term and in the long term, have an abiding partnership with the senior leadership, whether it's the military or whether it's business, so that as we develop our visions, the communication strategy works hand-in-hand with the business strategy.
We need to realize that there's great value in what communication can do in terms of the bottom line or the profit margin or in terms of just meeting the visions and the goals of the organization.
GG: How has your communication function changed or evolved in the past five years?
Martin: Because of technology, it's changed tremendously. Five years ago we were still largely print focused, and it's amazing, over five years, how much less paper is involved in what we do, and how more and more the day-to-day basics of what we do is tied with the new technology. Everything today is online.
The expectation of our managements is that we'll be able to do less and less with paper. And when I think back five years ago, we've come a long way; a very big shift.
Sconyers: For me it's been significant, because my understanding of technology has been minimal until recently. In fact, a quick anecdote: About two-and-a-half years ago I had a young officer come to me and he said, "Boss, we need to have a home page on the Internet," and I said, "That is a great idea. What's the Internet and what's a home page?"
And from that has grown the Air Force home page, which is now averaging about three million hits a week. It's really changed the way we look at things because now we're able to bypass the media and take our story directly to the public, to the international public. …