In the PR world we have the benefit of being exposed to a wide range of different business sectors and the strategic issues facing those at the top. In recent months I have heard a great deal about remarkably similar challenges being dealt with by a range of industries.
Retailers and retail banks looking for digital experts to show them how to stay at the cutting edge of a world where consumers are increasingly looking to use mobile transactions and online platforms. Executive search firms showing boards how they can attract and retain young digital specialists to lead their transformation. And boards across all industries, typically composed of people over 50 years of age, trying to get a handle on cyber security from technical experts who are often half their age.
Wherever you look, the opportunities and threats of digital transformation are sending many businesses into varying degrees of drastic action about their digital strategy.
I am in no way a digital denialist, and to suggest that taking the digital revolution seriously isn’t a vital strategic issue for business would be naïve. But it seems that there are many instances where companies are panicking about this new world rather than educating themselves about it and using it properly.
As one voice of reason in the cyber security industry recently said, a company could have the best young technology specialists and the most sophisticated technology in the world to protect its information security, but it will be next to useless unless the company leaders have created the right culture of human vigilance and implemented very simple security procedures. IT can put extra locks on the doors, but if employees don’t actually lock them, they are useless.
The message here is that although rapidly changing technology and the way people use it present huge opportunity and risk, digital is just one element of a bigger picture. Just as the best means of preventing cyber-attacks requires exactly the kind of people and structure-minded strategy implementation that senior management excels at rather than just digital specialists, the same is true elsewhere.
So while many businesses, especially consumer-facing ones, have long-since developed admirable digital and social media strategies, there are still many who take a more half-hearted, aimless approach.
Yes, businesses should absolutely understand all these channels and how to use them effectively, but business leaders should avoid being panicked into using them badly without first going back to some basic principles of communication: who do they want to talk to, what do they want to say to their audience, and what do they want this audience to think and feel about them, BEFORE they decide how they are going to achieve it.