Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Talking and Listening - The Sound of Music

The near ubiquitous presence of Peppa Pig, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Dora the Explorer in my house made me sceptical about introducing my kids to Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music. Why would they be interested in two near 50-year-old films with no cartoon graphics or special effects to speak of? I was amazed during half-term when they chose to watch one or the other every day, with modern-day DVDs being left untouched.

It led me to think about all the smart new tools we use as public sector communication professionals nowadays. Which of them will stand the test of time to become classics? And which will go as quickly as they came? It's hard to believe that VHS tapes and music CDs have been and practically gone within my lifetime. I've only owned a smartphone for two years but can now barely begin to think about life without Twitter. I know many others feel the same about Facebook. I think we'll still be using these resources, or their offspring, for many moons to come.

On the "disappearing" list, I'm putting dozens of social media apps which will come and go. And some of the very foundations of PR and marketing - press releases, local newspapers, and traditional paid-for advertising. It has long been the case that we need to target our campaigns better. Now, thanks to new media, we have the technical resources to do that. I future, I think we'll be doing better at targeting our messages at specific communities. Let's face it, we've never really known how many people have seen our piece in the paper, or heard our radio ad.

Finally, I think new media will eventually bring us back to some sadly forgotten arts that would save us a lot of bother - actually talking and listening to people. It's a theme of the Francis report in the NHS. If we listen more, to our customers and our staff, we will reduce failure and provide better services. Social media can provide us with new and effective ways of having those conversations, but they can only supplement the best way to find out what someone really thinks - a cup of tea and a chat. Now that's what I call the Sound of Music.

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