Faster Company: Strategies to Guide Technology, Influence the Future

June 3, 2019

[simon carter]
[simon carter]

Chatbots. Voice search. Augmented analytics. Our professional world is filled with ever-changing tools and tactics, just as our personal lives have been transformed by smartphones, social networks and streaming media.

Technology may change how we communicate, but this dynamic works the other way around, too: As professional communicators, our strategies can determine how we use technology.

Shape the media

For its April 2018 study “The Future of Well-Being in a Tech-Saturated World,” Pew Research Center gathered varied opinions from experts. Some warned about the dangers of information overload and distractions from clickbait headlines. Others said digital technology can improve the future.

“Human beings want and need connection, and the internet is the ultimate connection machine,” said Daniel Weitzner, principal research scientist and founding director of MIT’s Internet Policy Research Initiative.

Most thought-provoking were responses from experts who urged a proactive stance to technological changes. “[People] need to learn how to use social media, and … not to be used by it,” said Alexander Halavais, an associate professor in the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Arizona State University. People should “be able to shape the media they are immersed in,” he said.

As communications professionals in a fast-moving culture, we must similarly help clarify the thinking, decisions and strategies that will affect humanity in the years ahead. Whether you work in media relations or internal communications, you can help shape opinions, motivate people and influence the future of our profession and our world.

Create strategic goals

As the marketing platform Intercom points out about technology purchases, “The ‘shiny penny’ approach (focus all your attention on the hottest tools in the market) or ‘head in the sand’ approach (fall victim to analysis paralysis and avoid choosing any tools) are no longer viable.” It takes clear thinking to get results, and strategy must lead the charge.

As a communicator, you can bring the conversation back to your organization’s goals by asking questions such as, “What is our message? Who do we want to engage? What do we want the audience to do? How will we keep the relationship going? How will we measure engagement?”

According to a 2018 Gartner Research report, marketing-technology expenses account for 29 percent of total marketing budgets. When spending those funds, it’s easy to focus on features and prices instead of thinking about how new technology will work with existing tools and tactics and help the organization reach its goals. By emphasizing strategy upfront, you can help decision-makers avoid wasting money or adding unnecessary complexities.

As PR professionals, we must orchestrate the conversations that result from the powerful combination of technology and communication. Here are five tips for doing so:

  1. Know what you want to accomplish. Many communications initiatives lack a clear objective that supports organizational goals. Others are fuzzy about the action the audience should take after hearing the message. Do you want people to download information, share a post or make a purchase? Are there multiple audiences to segment, representing different stages of the buyer’s journey?
  2. Know your audience’s preferred communications channels. Segment your audience and analyze their favorite ways to interact with your business — backed up by research, if possible. Maybe they’re millennial consumers who like to shop on Pinterest, business-to-business contacts who respond to email, or employees who post content on social media.
  3. Create the flow. Now that you’ve established your goal and audience, choose the channels and map metrics to desired actions. Here’s where the interplay begins. Connect strategy to technology so you can gather the data: Strategy takes the lead. Once the campaign begins, analyze the metrics and let them inform what you do next: Technology takes the lead. Repeat the cycle to continually enhance results.
  4. Communicate clearly. Before launching your communications campaign, make sure everyone involved understands its goals, their own roles and what needs to be done. Marketing efforts are often marred by website landing pages that don’t convey the message, tracking mechanisms that aren’t set up correctly, or tools that don’t function as expected.
  5. Keep the conversation going. When the campaign is over, apply lessons you learned from it to your subsequent communications efforts. Test hypotheses to boost audience responses, and add new technology where it makes strategic sense.

Use technology to make a difference. The future is yours.

Grant McLaughlin

Grant McLaughlin, vice president, corporate affairs for Booz Allen Hamilton, brings a strategic edge to employee engagement and integrated marketing, reinventing the editorial voice and driving revenue with metrics aligned to client insights and data-driven targeting. His transformative team includes emerging technologists, digital marketers and analytical powerhouses. Follow him on Twitter @grantrmc.


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