Working in a field that is in the middle of a cyclone of change, I am constantly fascinated by what the long term affects will be of some of the things we are currently experiencing. For instance, I have already instructed my staff that when preparing our e-newsletter, make sure the most important information is covered first and clearly. We know that people “scan” copy online where they are more inclined to “read” it in print. Therefore, we must make our copy “scannable”. If we are building a website, we must keep in mind that our copy needs to be “SEO-friendly”. If we are sending a Tweet, it must be 140 characters. If we are posting to Facebook, nobody wants to read a book. Keep it short and mostly inane. Where is this going to take us as a society? We are already seeing the death of print. The question is “what is it being replaced with”? Will our children and grandchildren be writing their Master theses with 3-letter acronyms since that is what they have been using for much of their correspondence throughout their life? More importantly, will their professors accept it?
I am in a quandary. I make my living in communications yet I wonder how we are communicating today and what it means for tomorrow. Am I just getting old and not in touch? Yes to the first part but I think no to the second. I think there is a real issue here that needs more attention.
In his new book, “The Tyranny of E-Mail”, John Freeman, acting editor of Granta magazine, makes some of these points much better than I could. He points out “The faster we talk and chat and type over tools such as email and text messages, the more our communication will resemble traveling at great speed. Bumped and jostled, queasy from the constant ocular and muscular adjustments to our body must make to keep up, we will live in a constant state of digital jet lag.” I couldn’t have said it better.
The US postal service is going broke because it is handling a fraction of the mail it used to. Our fax machine lies almost dormant since almost every communication is through e-mail. I explain to my 30-year old daughter that our media orders used to be mailed and the acknowledgements from the publications were also mailed. And yet, business got done.
It is our business to guide our clients through this maze and consul them about the business benefits of social media and yet, one side of my brain is saying, let’s back away and send a customer a hand written letter and then knock off early and take a hike in the park.