For most of the past five years I have made numerous presentations to many different groups. My message can be boiled down to the need for speed, directness and transparency. At times it feels like little progress is being made–that while the world changes quickly, communicators and their processes don’t. Now there is more and more evidence that communicators are understanding and beginning to change how they do things.
Evidence: During a recent major storm event one of our clients sent out simultaneous messages to over 39,000 individuals via text-to-voice phone, SMS, email and website. It took some major grinding on servers and bandwidth, but the messages got through. Not all on the list had submitted their cell phones to receive text messages, and an inquiry back from one complained he didn’t get the message and why didn’t he hear it on the radio!
That really got me thinking because before this day of direct communication, if you needed to get a message out quickly to 40,000 people, you didn’t even think about communicating directly. Mail? Besides being too slow, it would cost $30,000 or more. Phone? Yeah, right. Email? Maybe. But simultaneously through multiple modes? No. Most would rely on some form of “mass communication” like radio, tv or the like. Untargeted, no assurance of completion of message, and you reach a lot of people who don’t really want your message. But the only way.
A school district started sending weather related school closure information to parents who registered for the updates. In one short season they completed converted from waiting on the crawl on tv or for the radio reports, to getting those email updates and if they didn’t come when they expected, to pounding on the website over and over until it coughed up the answer.
The future, folks, is direct communication. Mass communication is now in the hands of people just like you who have access to the powerful tools that make that possible. Data management must be on the minds of all communicators.
Evidence 2: Ad dollars falling. This story in Ad Age points out that paid media is declining, not just over economic worries but may be in permanent decline. Why? Direct. The competition is not some fancy new form of mass media. It is CRM–customer relationship management.
Consider this quote from the article: ROI-conscious marketers from Procter & Gamble to Jim Beam have been loud and proud about their efforts to cut back broadcast budgets and repurpose dollars to the internet and disciplines such as CRM and word-of-mouth, which don’t involve any media outlay.
Advertisers, with a little help from Google specifically and the internet generally, are finding all kinds of ways to send much more highly targeted, highly specific and personal messages to individuals. Mass media. Sure–mass personal media.
In 2001 I started writing about the Post Media World. Direct communication rules and I doubt there is any going back.