By June 10, 2013 0 Comments Read More →

Putting the ghost in the machine

Location, location, location. It’s a real estate missive used to highlight the value of, well, location. Basically, it doesn’t matter the size of your home or its state of repair if your location is of a particular value. A mansion in the slums? Bad. A shanty in the ritziest part of town? Pretty good.

There’s a parallel online. Facebook. Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ are great neighbourhoods to have a property in these days. Second Life and MySpace? Not so much.

CBC’s Evan Solomon explained to the audience at the CPRS 2013 National Convention that digital real estate is losing its value. Communicators looking to improve their investment portfolio should consider relationships a “buy.”

Yup. Relationship, relationship, relationship. As Evan said, “If you’re not deepening the relationship everyday, you’re losing the relationship.”

I agree with Evan. In fact, that’s what made him a great opening act. At least, that’s the way I joked about it. His talk was a perfect setup to one I delivered this morning. I called mine “Ghost in the Machine” — a play on the fourth album by my favourite band (The Police) and the Arthur Koestler essay the album’s named after.

Ghost in the Machine is another way of explaining my thoughts around digital eye contact (digital iContact for you more geeky folk).

The principle is this: if there’s no soul in your communication, there’s no reason for your audience to buy your message. I walked my audience through a number of examples of how putting the ghost into the machine made campaigns and crisis communication efforts more effective.

I made the case for applying your innate skills at engaging with people both in “real-life” situations and digital interaction. Let’s call the latter “mediated experiences.” Basically, use your social intelligence in all aspects of your communication efforts. Understand your environment, the conditions and the participants, then be fearlessly sincere.

If you’ve been working within a machine culture for a while, this emergence of your ghost will take time. It also isn’t complicated. I explained it this way…

Honesty and sincerity take courage because they’re not generally accepted in corporate communication. Actually, they should be natural. Moreover, case after case show they generally yield better results; if not in the short-term, definitely in the long.

Message control takes energy. It’s like swimming upstream. It’s become the preferred method because its less polarizing — in theory. This approach yields santized and frequently meaningless results, with generally non-committal commitments to values and outcomes. It also means we don’t have to be human and appear vulnerably happy or vulnerably sad. This can be exhausting trying to keep our ghost out of our communications.

Based on tweets, the one point that resonated the most with my audience tied to corporate communication… “Ghosts apologize; machines say sorry.” Or, perhaps it was the only thing I said which was concise enough to make it to a tweet.

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About the Author:

Mark Blevis is a digital public affairs strategist and President of FullDuplex.ca, an integrated digital communications, public affairs and research company. His work focuses on the role of digital tools and culture on issues and reputation management. He also leads research into how Canadian opinions are shaped through online content and interactions.