As we pick up our phones to share a humorous story with a friend, send an email to a colleague asking if they have time to proofread a piece of work, or post an image from our travels on social media for the attention of the general public, it is worthwhile to ponder what it means to communicate in the 21st century? Could I have waited to tell my friend the story in person? Could I have spared a minute to walk over to my colleague’s desk and shared the piece of work? Most crucially, how do I feel knowing that people I have never met have access to the intricacies of my existence?
The common denominator in all three scenarios is control. Whilst methods of communication may have evolved over the years, it is up to each and every one of us to dictate how much of our lives we share with one another and the ways in which we communicate that information.
With the introduction of the internet, and social media some years later, came a newfound urgency for the immediacy of everyday life. Gone are the days where individuals wait patiently to share news with – or receive news from – friends, family and colleagues. PRs understand this fact all too well. Within seconds of posting online, be it a controversial tweet, a news article or even something as trivial as a video of a talking cat, pieces of content have the capacity to spread like wildfire and go viral, across the globe.
Due to the ease and speed at which information can be disseminated on social media, now more than ever, individuals are using platforms to share their intimate thoughts on the political climate and voice contentious opinions on the news agenda to the world. Whilst these mediums do not exist in place of face-to-face interaction, it is fair to say that the new opportunities afforded by technology have paved the way for the creation of a more impersonal communicative approach. In the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, we have been granted the chance to connect with the masses – including individuals we have never met- with one click of a button. So why wouldn’t we?
Technology has certainly changed the face of communication, and will only continue to do so, but we are forced consider how we want to communicate? This question, of course, cannot warrant a straightforward answer. For some, the ability to share information both with haste and for a mass audience is paramount. For others, face-to-face conversation will always remain preferable – and that is ok. What we must all remember is that we have the capacity to do both and it is never an either-or scenario. Rather, it is up to each of us to decipher what mode of communication is the most appropriate in every instance, on a personal and professional level, which is often easier said than done.
As PRs, we are tasked with navigating the ever-changing culture of communication not only for ourselves, but also on behalf of our clients. Technology has offered us all new means to build relationships and valuable connections, but it is the comprehension of how and when we must utilise the tools that we have been granted that makes all the difference. As methods of communication continue to develop, how the new terrain is navigated ultimately lies in our own hands.
Deborah Eder is an account executive at The PR Office