I was asked once by a marketing man “How have you adapted to the digital age?” He obviously thought this potentially offensive, so not wanting to appear discriminatory or to be making crass judgements he immediately changed the question to “How have you embraced the digital age?”
Being too polite to give a rude response, I kept the thought in my head that this was akin to asking me how I was coping with using a mobile phone – or, heaven forbid, a smartphone! – having used landlines most of my life. Or even how do I cope with preset DAB radio stations in the car instead of having to turn the dial through all the fuzzy FM stations? Yes, the question really was that absurd.
Many people like myself have been working in digital communications for decades, we just didn’t use the word ‘digital’ when we were using PCs to computerise marcomms and produce media that never saw even a hint of a printer.
You may have heard the phrase “dinosaur in a digital age” – hopefully not directed at yourself. But let us consider this “digital age”. The marketing man himself reckoned that the main changes had really only taken hold in the last 10 years. So this would mean that if you had held a job in PR and communications for any longer than 11 years you will not only have seen the change but you will have functioned in a pre-digital age, meaning there are an awful lot of potential digital dinosaurs out there. Given that the marketing man talking to me was probably in his late 40s, he would also have operated non-digitally for many years and have had to make the changeover – then again, maybe he was asking me for advice on how to make the switch!
Seriously, though, the thinking behind this phrase is simply ludicrous. Anyone operating in PR and communications for the last 10 years cannot have done so without engaging with digital technology. They would have had to, otherwise what were they doing, producing flyers for their local church’s tea mornings?
It’s safe to say that every PR and communications agency in the land has moved on to a digital platform and is providing these services to their clients. Ergo, anyone working with these agencies and interacting with these clients will be operating on a digital basis in a digital world – every day of the week.
But let’s not kid ourselves, people, when agencies are having meetings with their clients, every discussion is not digitally-based. The usual suspects are still there – we need to increase awareness of our company and its products and services, we need to establish our brand in a stronger way, we need to get our message out there, we need to increase our sales… and so on. The reality is that the only difference is the discussions are now supplemented by talks about online communications portals, social media, Google analytics, algorithms, blogs, links, search engine optimisation, search engine rankings et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
You can call it a revolution if you like. You could say that mobile communications represent a revolution when compared to fixed landline communications, or that apps represent a revolution compared to fax machines. But it isn’t an overnight revolution so why would people seriously struggle to cope with it? And why would a person is their 30s be any better at coping with the changes than someone in their 40s or 50s?
I suspect even the marketing manager realised he could be interpreted as being ageist when asking me that question – hence the rapid rephrasing – but let’s not make the mistake of believing that only someone in their 20s can really understand the digital world, presumably because they have grown up in it and not been tarnished by the old ways.
They may laugh at their parents still having a phone that plugs into the wall and they may shake their heads when older people tell them that there really did used to be “life before the internet”. But we should most definitely cast the phrase “dinosaur in a digital world” into Room 101 and recognise that digital marketing communications are not rocket science.
To talk to someone about how digital marketing communications and PR can help you, click on this link or call Changeworks now on the prehistoric landline device on 01785 247588.