It wasn’t so long ago that communications people relied on their internal Web team for new and interesting technology, both for evaluation and set up in their organizations. Years ago at my marketing communications firm, we relied on the web folks to simplify the complex and enlighten us with technology that made us more productive. When new technology was available, they took a lot of time to explain the tools and resources.
For example when we needed to have web analytics tied to our programs, they introduced us to WebTrends. When our company needed project management software, they showed us AdTrak, and when we wanted to evaluate specific numbers with respect to visitors/traffic that came into our newsroom or we needed an email marketing solution, it was the web team who came to our aid. It was also the web team who uploaded photos, logos, and other supporting materials for our online media kits into our newsroom. I’m fairly certain that we interrupted the web team quite a few times in a day with our technology questions.
I guess you could say back in the day, most of us communications professionals were non-tech and we knew it. We proudly updated our excel spreadsheets and sent separate, single emails to contacts. At the time, one senior account executive came close to giving his resignation the day we began to use the new email platform to reach journalists. Luckily, we were able to educate him and he learned a better and more efficient approach.
Why did the view on technology change? Communications professionals found out there were tech tasks they were able to accomplish on their own and with ease. That’s right, they were empowered to roll up our sleeves to learn technology and achieve their goals. What exactly did that mean in terms of a new function? It required adopting a different mindset and taking on a new process. When we wanted to be more productive, and we realized that there was a more targeted approach to reach a particular group and when we had the information at their fingertips through the Internet, that’s when we started with our own technology research and experimentation.
Today, like any other initiative, we must do our due diligence with a cost benefit analysis to determine what would be the best technology, platform, or tools to get the communication out and to reach the right people. Of course, we consult with web or IT, especially if it’s a resource that needs to integrate with an overall organizational system. However, in the past, depending on the technology or the tool that was needed, the process didn’t necessarily start with us. It’s great that we have direct access to information and resources that we can review, compare and digest to make an informed decision. The Internet and social media made this more than a possibility; it made it our reality.
In the last few years, communications professionals have been comparing and making decisions about collaborative platforms, different media channels for social engagement, tools that measure influence, back end content management systems, social media monitoring/tracking services, email marketing platforms, social media release platforms, project management systems, online survey tools, and the list goes on and on. It’s invigorating to be in a position to research, demo, test, evaluate and then decide what technology best suits a particular program or helps with the productivity in your department.
The technology tester is no small role. It’s a critical part of improving business communications. Suddenly communications professionals are selecting the tools and resources that will help with productivity and program effectiveness. Finding and selecting the right technology is a part of the strategic process. Before, we were trained and then used the technology it to implement the initiative. However, being a part of the evaluation and the selection process, leads to feeling empowered and inspired to take a deeper interest in the overall success of the technology’s use.
There are different levels of communications technology testing from the smaller tools to the larger platforms. Regardless of the size or scope of the technology, the technology tester is happy to roll up his/her sleeves, do the comparison-shopping and demos/trials that are necessary to make decisions. It’s important to make technology testing a part of the communications function. But, it’s not a one-time deal. When you’re a tester that means your executives rely on you to know what’s new in communications technology and how the channel, platform or tool can benefit the business.
Of course, understanding where and how to communicate on behalf of a brand and knowing how to use the appropriate technology, tools and platforms is an ever-changing process. What’s important to keep in mind is that when you dive into technology, from research through to implementation and measurement, it makes you more of an asset to your organization. Anything that makes you stand out with new and valuable information is worth the time and effort that goes into the testing.
If you’re in communications, is being technology tester a part of your role?