Magazine article Communication World

The Traveling Communicator

Magazine article Communication World

The Traveling Communicator

Article excerpt

The Traveling Communicator

On a recent business trip to San Francisco, Calif., it took only a few hours for Arnold Kishi, management analyst, East-West Center, Honolulu, Hawaii, to study a 10-page manuscript and supply the author with a list of editing recommendations. The manuscript's author was in Honolulu. With a laptop computer and electronic mail, Kishi was not hindered by distance.

While visiting Houston, Texas, Chris Bunting, ABC, chairman and CEO, Continental/Golin/Harris Communications, Inc., Toronto, Ont. hammered out a business proposal on his laptop computer. Then he used a facsimile machine in the hotel to send a copy to his office in Toronto, which then submitted the proposal on time.

David Kistle, senior vice president, Padilla Speer Beardsley Inc., Minneapolis, Minn., carries a portable electronic audience-response system when he goes on the road to conduct focus groups. Using the system, he quickly polls participants and shows them their responses within seconds. Results can be compiled, analyzed and depicted in graphs.

"There is a whole new definition for the office. Today, you can take your office with you," observed Kistle. "Whether you are in a hotel in Cleveland or at home over the weekend, you can get your work done as long as you have the right equipment."

Technology Changes the World of Work

The rapid proliferation of affordable, portable devices and related services makes it possible for public relations professionals to complete projects no matter where they are in the world. It is now possible to set up office during airline flights, car rides, airport layovers and hotel stays.

Key to this newfound mobility is the development of the laptop computer, which is increasingly light and versatile. Now laptop computers can do desktop publishing and spreadsheets.

The electronic organizer, or note pad, is another innovation often found in the traveling communicator's bag of tricks. As small as a pocket radio, this device can handle word processing and spreadsheet work, plus serve as calculator, clock, appointment calendar and address directory.

Printers and copiers are becoming more portable, enhancing the usefulness of laptop computers. Documents prepared on laptop computers can be transmitted by modem to home offices and clients. Portable, battery-operated facsimile machines are another means of transmitting projects.

Traveling communicators are also relying more on cellular telephones. While phone-users are driving, calls on special frequencies can be transmitted from one cell, or region, to another. As prices drop, usage will climb, experts predict. By the end of this year, an estimated 4 million people will own cellular phones worldwide.

Other items that are gaining in popularity are electronic audience-response systems and videocameras that produce computer images.

Success in setting up an office away from the office requires close planning, warn communicators who have learned through experience. Equipment and services must be selected with care. Before hitting the road, professionals must be fully versed in how the equipment operates and ready to troubleshoot any glitches. Before traveling abroad, communicators should find out about any customs restrictions and make sure their equipment will be compatible.

"When I travel with high technology equipment, it makes me more productive," reflected Kishi. "But I have to make sure that before I start, I am absolutely comfortable with the technology. If you wait until the last minute to learn how to use it, you are going to be less productive than you could be."

Using Laptop Computers

By carrying a briefcase-sized Zenith Supersport computer, Elizabeth Allan, ABC, senior vice president, IABC international headquarters, San Francisco, Calif., has cut back several time-consuming steps in her work on the road.

Responsible for keeping a written record of executive board meetings, executive committee meetings and chapter management forums, Allan used to take notes by hand. …

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