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Can You Hear Us? Keeping Pace With The Evolution of Comms Technology

At drpbigtalk, I hosted a breakout session titled ‘The Voice in Technology’, where I invited delegates to take a trip down the rabbit hole into the weird and wonderful world of future technology. I talked about the key trends which will dominate the tech we deploy in our comms team over the next decade and more, covering the humble smartphone, augmented and mixed reality, as well as voice search and sonic branding. I realised that in my role, I’m often required to put forward my thoughts on what new technology mediums we will and should be using. With that, I thought I’d come at this blog from a different angle. Here are some of my thoughts…

What WON’T we be using in 10 years’ time? What will our progress render obsolete? What crutches do we have today that will be too worn out to support our comms campaigns in the next decade?

Hopefully by asking these questions, we can start to see that the alternatives or new developments we can deploy to, are eventually replaced.

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One Way Content

The writing has been on the wall for a while with this one.

Even the humble comment on social began to ring the change for content devoid of any interactive opportunity, but this trend only promises to become even more deeply entrenched. Roughly 84% of people trust online reviews as much as their own friends. We’re also moving into an audience mindset where seas of five-star reviews seem suspicious. Your audience is becoming ever more likely to search through your feedback to discover a poor review and interrogate your response.

How you communicate, interact and respond is the measurement of your comms. The rise of AI will make comms that react in real-time, the norm, and will help to handle the continued desire for hyper-personalisation. Adweek tells us that 75% of consumers say they’d find it valuable for brands to hold a “style profile” on them to help provide more bespoke services. This all speaks to a desire to move away from the deluge of static comms in our sphere today.

Isolated Events

There is no doubt that today’s events are more connected than ever before. Technology is broadening its reach and extending audiences to multiple sites, but visual and experiential technologies are still trying to replicate the effectiveness of face to face. With the rise of Occulus Connect, Microsoft HoloLens, and the continued advancement of virtual environments, we will see the beginning of a truly connected multi-site event enhanced by technology. The first harbinger of this change is the absolutely excellent experiences being created by the Void. What they describe as “Hyper-Reality” paves the way for giving people the closest approximation to being at a live event we can currently muster. As this tech becomes more scalable, we will open new horizons for events and make remote viewing engaging, rather than a stifling experience.

Webinars

Even the word can send chills down your spine and evoke that feeling of being chained to a desk, headphones on, staring at a screen watching shoddy slides slip by. Granted, that last point speaks to the content not the technology but ultimately webinars have always fallen short of their potential, as they don’t take full advantage of the technology they use. Humans have demonstrated that broadcasting information is not only acceptable, but actually desirable. Chat shows are hugely popular, presentation specialists such as the TED show, perfectly represent what webinars could be. But, if you do want to deliver content direct to people’s desks, then digital interaction will come to the fore. Gamification during the process, live questionnaires and polls, multi-device interactions through smartphones should already be prevalent, but sadly are not. Once we get this right, we definitely won’t be calling them webinars anymore.

Email

This one seems to have incredible staying power. Like the cockroach after the nuclear blast, email has clung on despite far outstaying it’s welcome and all while watching other, far more intuitive and useful technologies grow alongside it. So, what’s different now? Inc gives us three examples of change in the air. Big tech companies are not even providing avenues for email support anymore, AI is on the rise, supplying virtual assistants that are far more intuitive to use and timely than sending an email off into the ether and entire countries, namely India and China – are abandoning email all together. The humble P2P messaging service (WhatsApp or WeChat) is easier, more interactive and infinitely more seamless than email. It’s also built for the king of comms devices – the smartphone and emails seems to be a square peg in a round hole. I give email another 5 years at best before we finally give up the ghost.

"Adweek tells us that 75% of consumers say they’d find it valuable for brands to hold a “style profile” on them to help provide more bespoke services."

Screens

Every now and again, something massive occurs which forces us to redefine the very way we approach communication. The death of the screen, or at the very least, the vast reduction in their use is one of those things. Laptop and PC sales are plummeting. People are realising that between smart TVs, tablets and phones, we don’t need the extra screens. Combined with that is the rise of voice search. 50% of all searches will be voice activated by 2020 and 30% of all searches will be done without a screen. The rise of home hubs and AI in vehicles etc. will create a new dynamic, which forces us to think about the way in which comms will flow through audio only. Sonic Branding will become ever more important and this fundamental shift will put even more emphasis on trust and authenticity.

Perhaps by looking at communications tomorrow through the lens of what we won’t be using anymore we can see a clearer picture of the tech and techniques we need to be thinking about today. I think a lot of the reticence around adopting new ways of working is rooted in risk aversion. We’d rather stick with what we know than do something new which could fail. Unfortunately, by sticking with what we know, we’re actually locking ourselves into a future where our audience know a whole different set of things and we’re left behind.

By Callum Gill - Head of Insight and Innovation