Business Communication

From brain to IPO. Map out your communications

Let’s take a typical day of little Miss X, CEO of an exciting new startup.

Little Miss X wakes up from a nightmare.  She jots down what she remembers of it in a diary next to her bed to take to her shrink.  This is information just for the two of them.  Clear cut case.  She doesn’t put it anywhere else and she will probably burn the diary; it is all written in shorthand that nobody else will understand anyway.  She then goes to the toilet.  This too concerns nobody else other than her husband.  “Sweetie I’ll go first and you can shower while I prepare breakfast” she says as she goes.  Another interaction which doesn’t need to be on Facebook or anywhere else.  We are still in a very private sphere of Little Miss X’s world.  She doesn’t tell him about a strange lump she feels on her breast, he doesn’t need to worry about that.

But the minute she sits on the toilet and opens Facebook on her cell phone she is out and about.  For starters, all her friends know she is awake.  They see her “Likes” on their posts, then a few of her comments and emoticons.  Her sister sends a message:  “Goodmorning sis!  Nervous about the big event today?”  Miss X posts a picture from her trip to Bali, a Budha at sunrise.  Only her Facebook friends can see it and she is very picky about who is her Facebook friend.  Privacy concerns apart, this is still what she considers a private area.

Over breakfast she scans the news online.  There is an article about her industry in the New York Times.  She posts a small comment on her personal blog, careful not to mention the article directly, but answering the main points.  After all the blog has all the legal disclaimers.  It is her personal opinion, not her company’s official position or anything like that.  But already her mind is at work.

On the drive to the office she snaps a pic of a rainbow landing on the billboard announcing their IPO.  No time to waste, post that straight to the company’s Facebook page.    “A bright new start” seems like a good title in view of what is coming up today.   Sally in Marketing will see it and maybe use it somewhere else later too. 

Little Miss X get to her desk and sits behind the computer.  Now she is at work proper.  Reviewing the press releases and other official communications of the day, thinking about her speech.  From the lump in her breast which absolutely nobody knows about, to her words in front of the cameras in a few hours which will get retransmitted in as many ways possible.  Her success as a person and a businesswoman hinges on mapping them out:

This information goes there.   That information you can expect to find here.”   If you are my personal friend and you send me a message via Facebook I will probably respond immediately.  If you follow my personal blog and write a comment, expect a friendly and unofficial vague response within the day.   If you find the rainbow on the billboard great, someone in marketing will write something marketingey within 15 minutes.   If you don’t like my speech during the IPO I will get full business on you and hit you with data, facts, figures very carefully.”

We all need to be clear about these information flows.  When I say “map it out” I literally mean a map.  You have Pinterest page which you never check up?  Write it on your Pinterst bio:   “I don’t use Pinterest much, check out my Twitter feed if you want to keep up with my latest.”    Started that Path account back when it looked cool?  Well update it.   “If you want to get in touch, I hardly ever check up on this account, so please don’t send a message here.  Catch me on my personal blog.”   LinkedIn?   Sure, but I check it up about once a week.   Draw up all your communication channels and tell everyone about it.

Be clear or be smeared.


Cautionary tales from the past for virtual reality

I loved and sold graphic tablets for many years.  Essentially a high tech slab of plastic, it offers “the natural way” to interact with technology.  I always started my presentations by saying that “nobody was born with a computer mouse in their hand” and audiences nodded.  Half of them suffered from carpal tunnel syndrome or thought they did.  Everyone was impressed how quickly, effortlessly and accurately I worked my demo projects with a Wacom tablet.  Not just Photoshop, even Excel is better with a tablet, here look!  I whizzed through it all with genuine enthusiasm, that tablet was an extension of my mind for a while.

It isn’t now.  Fewer and fewer people complained about pain.  They had switched to laptops. The mouse was dead anyway.  The interfaces changed.  iPads and smartphones had dumbed down the requirements for accurate interaction while software had got better at predicting what you want to do.  Very few people need a graphic tablet anymore.  I checked out an app on my phone yesterday that does most of the cool tricks I performed in front of trade show crowds on their photos almost as well.

3D television was meant to be a revolution too.  HD, 2K, 4K ever rising pixel count.  And 3D thrown in too, heck you’re paying several thousand for the monster, why not?  Curved TVs and all sorts of other technologies always promise “it will be just like being there!”  Except we don’t seem to care.  Old fashioned television is more than enough resolution for millions of kids watching YouTube videos on their cellphones all day.  The bandwidth and storage requirements of high resolution never seem to be justified in the grand scheme of things.  This latest slew of virtual reality devices is still way too demanding.  Remember digital, interactive television?  Hundreds of promises, dozens of variations, many people in the industry betting and losing.  Clunky proposed interfaces and standards, almost all of them failed.   Partly because people don’t want interaction when watching TV, they want to vegetate.  And partly because more simple devices took care of the interaction.   Surfing the net on your tablet instead of channel surfing on your TV.

So next time you start to tell us about the next big thing in virtual reality, take a minute to think about the decades of marketing hoohah we have suffered with the above examples please.  When you tell us about the killer app and do that highly rehearsed demo, think about all the thousands of other technologies it will take, industries to shift paradigms and content that will need to be updated.  I’m not saying virtual reality will never happen.  Just that it is further than you think and that the opportunities might not be where you think they are.