Top 10 things communication professionals can do to prepare for the future

I apologize if my last post seemed a little bit doom and gloom. To make up for it, I decided to make a list of what communicators can be doing to prepare for the terrible things I outlined in the aforementioned post.

Top 10 things communication professionals can do to prepare for the future:

  1. Focus less on tools and more on trends. Software and new technologies will change before you can master them, so your time is best spent figuring out why things are popular in the first place so you will understand where we will go next.
  2. Pay attention to mobile media and begin preparing content for mobile use. The future of content is on the go.
  3. Hold on to the value from traditional media. Good storytelling and other elements rooted in legacy media will still be the basis of successful media in the future. Content will always be king. Media ethics and standards should always apply to every platform.
  4. Read more than just 140 characters. Tweets are good, yes. They are pathways or links to relevant information found somewhere else online. However, if we forget how to pay attention to something for longer than 30 seconds or how to write well, the media industry as we know it will dissolve.
  5. Maintain your digital reputation. Download whatever free software or analytics tool you need to follow your brand online. Your identity is being chronicled for the whole world to see and whatever you want to do in the future will depend on whether or not you have preserved your past.
  6. Help adopters understand big changes in online communication. With our rate of innovation, there needs to be more attention paid to those who are at the bottom of the technological learning curve.
  7. Do not ignore the digital divide. When you are striving to digitize all of your content and move it all online, don’t forget the millions of people who are without Internet access. No matter how hyper-connected we may feel sometimes, information access is still a privilege.
  8. Research outside of your comfort zone. Understand as much of the communications industry as you can. So many fields within media are merging now as traditional things like video and print are adapting for a computer or smart phone. Media convergence is upon us! Subscribe to an interesting blogger outside your field to stay informed.
  9. Keep one eye on what is coming next. Technology is developing faster than we can say “iFad.” Do not get bogged down in today’s trends without paying attention to our media culture as a whole.
  10. Schedule more offline time and in-face meetings. Online networking can only take us so far. Invest in your workplace, families and friends by meeting in person and taking the time to stop the 24 hour multitask cycle.

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Top 10 terrible things that could happen to our media landscape

Your new iPhone will probably be outdated before you can even crack it with that inevitable life-shattering drop on the pavement. I have nothing against iPhones, in fact, I hope to get one as soon as Verizon will carry it. My angst comes instead with the perpetual push for more, for smaller, for faster and more powerful.

We are eternally trying to realize our George and the Jetsons fantasies of flying cars and robot housekeepers. “This will be the decade!” we project year after year. Meanwhile, there are millions left at the beginning of the curve. There are countless with no Internet access at all—forget about intelligent kitchen countertops and mobile microchips. Are we future-obsessed? I imagine if you’ve never used your phone for anything beyond a phone call, the iPhone might be a little overwhelming. Besides the digital natives, how much of the population can actually adapt and adopt technology as fast as it is developing? Are we moving so quickly that some people will be forever left behind?

The time has come for a realistic and admittedly cynical look at our media future. It is more of a wake up call than a calculated future projection. This is what we have to look forward to if we let a super sonic media obsession rule our world.

Top 10 Terrible Things That Could Happen to our Media Landscape:

  1. Trends toward customization will generate self-centered blinders that lead to ignorance and apathy. Users will forget that we are all interdependent.
  2. The 3D mobile media cloud creates hyper-connected, over-stimulated media addicts who cannot appreciate low-tech treasures like genuine friends and family.
  3. Trends toward transparency will lead to a general lack of privacy in our online and offline worlds. Eventually, we will be bombarded with targeted advertising that knows all of our private information.
  4. If online becomes the “default,” those without Internet access will fall further and further behind.
  5. An over preoccupation with prevention will force us to disregard the present. Life will become too fast-paced because we are constantly worried about the future.
  6. Children growing up online will fail to develop critical cognitive abilities like imagination, attention span and patience due to 24/7 media consumption.
  7. Blurred boundaries between things and people will force us to devalue genuine face-to-face relationships.
  8. Intelligent products and processes will lead to a loss of control on the part of human intelligence.
  9. The easier it is for people to communicate and publish material, the more noise will drown out quality content.
  10. High demand for low-energy media like viral videos and celebrity news feeds will lead to a scarcity of valuable high-energy media like lengthy literature and in-depth news.

I’m not saying everything on this list is guaranteed to happen. I’m simply saying that these are the risks associated with our media culture today. It is our responsibility to be aware of these dangers and to begin counteracting them as soon as possible.

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Managing your online footprint

I’m not talking about recycling and I’m definitely not talking about shoe size.

Your online footprint is the scope of your digital reputation. It includes every blog, post, comment, profile and picture tagged of you on Facebook. We create permanent files chronicling all of our thoughts, purchases and impulsive decisions. In the past, vicious rumors and embarrassing moments could crop up on isolated bathroom walls and then disappear. Today, hurtful comments appear to a much broader online audience and can’t be removed with paint or nail polish remover.

Kevin Colvin

What’s the worst that could happen? Well, for example, you could be Kevin Colvin. Colvin, an intern at Anglo Irish Bank, sent his boss an apologetic email explaining that he must miss work and travel to New York on Halloween due to a family emergency. Unfortunately, he posted a picture of himself at a Halloween party hours later, complete with a fairy godmother costume and drag makeup. Colvin’s boss not only forwarded the picture and pathetic email to his entire office, but Colvin’s story spread across the entire Internet, making an appearance on major broadcast news networks.  Now, if you Google “Kevin Colvin,” the first hit details this embarrassing story.

This is not an ideal situation considering a recent study by Career Rocketeer found that more than half of HR professionals and hiring managers will Google perspective candidates at some point during the hiring process. To go even further, 46% of those said that they eliminated candidates based on what they found online.

What should we do about it? Here are a few suggestions for cleaning up your digital footprint:

  • Remove contact information from your online profiles. There are too many people who can manipulate this information to your disadvantage.
  • If you can’t say something nice, at least say it to someone’s face. Rash decisions made in anger should stay as far away from your keyboard as possible.
  • Be cautious about whom you trust. Think twice before you send intimate photos of information, even in private emails. Anything that is considered “private” can be made public.
  • Be smart with your phone. Be careful who you give your number to and how you use GPS and other technologies that can pinpoint your physical location.
  • Don’t post anything online you wouldn’t want to be seen doing in public.
  • Monitor all photos that are tagged of you in social networks. Remove anything that looks suspicious, even if it is just the people around you who look sketchy.

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The Future of Privacy on the Generative Net

By Cathy Freeman

You look for top-rated sellers when you browse eBay, right? And before you buy on Amazon, don’t you take a look at all the ratings and reviews that might influence your decision to buy that gaudy curtain rod? Every time you Google something, you instinctively click on the top search results, because you know that is the precedent set by the majority of people just as curious as you. And we have come to value peer-edited Wikipedia just as much as our old-school leather bound Encyclopedia Britannica – maybe even more so (keep in mind the fact that everyone can say anything about anyone, including you).

Our Internet livelihoods depend on reputation. And reputation management in turn depends on organization, continuity and old-fashioned honesty – attributes some would say are in short supply on today’s generative web. The generative quality of the Internet allows for infinite editors and innovators and ultimately we sacrifice control for creativity’s sake.

This week I read an interesting take on this dilemma in Jonathan Zittrain’s book The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It. Zittrain warns, “The kinds of search systems that say which people are worth getting to know and which should be avoided, tailored to the users querying the system, present a set of due process problems far more complicated than a state-operated system, or, for that matter, any system operated by a single party.”

In other words, where structure is lacking there is a greater privacy risk. As Zittrain puts it, “The generative capacity to share data and to create mash-ups means that ratings and rankings can be far more emergent – and far more inscrutable.”

So generativity is here to stay. How can we preserve precious privacy and structure requisites while giving up the reins?

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Online reputation management: exercising your digital “do not disturb” sign

Have you ever “Googled” yourself or your company?

If you haven’t, you should. Online personas are detailed, traceable and permanent. In a world of constant posting, commenting and uploading, we have lost control of our reputations.

Deep breath.

I recently finished reading Daniel Solove’s book The Future of Reputation. In it, he discusses the migration of conversation to social networks. More than ever, we’re losing our ability to control what is made public about us. But, that isn’t really the problem. According to Solove, “the problem is that these sites are not designed in ways to emphasize the potential harms to privacy and other consequences. Cyberspace is the new place to hang out, the perils of exposure notwithstanding.”

It’s true. In today’s climate of viral content, public defamation can be toxic and even deadly. So what are we going to do about it? We’re taking back the night. Maintain your online credibility by actively defending your privacy and staying in tune with the conversation. Try some of these FREE reputation management tools to stay in touch with your runaway online rep:

Google Alerts – It couldn’t get much easier than this free service that sends you an email every time your keyword is mentioned on the web.

Technorati – Search your keyboard for blog mentions with this search engine.

Twitter Search – This simple search engine allows you to enter a keyboard and browse real-time mentions on Twitter.

Who Links to Me – Understand your realm of influence by monitoring anyone who links to you.

monitorThis – Consider this your one stop shop. MonitorThis searches photos, tags, blogs, news, articles, microblogs, videos and websites from 26 different search engine feeds.

Rapleaf – Rapleaf lets you trace your online footprint. Users contribute to your online score, so create an account to start managing your privacy.

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Google and the future of trust

Looking for the capitol of Iowa? What about directions to your son’s baseball game? Got a bet on how old Brooke Shields really is?

The answer is Google—a noun that we’ve lovingly transformed into a verb and quickly equated with “the search for knowledge.”

Much to the founders’ delight, I’m sure. Larry Page and Sergey Brin created Google with a goal to simply make information more accessible. In a true American “boot straps” kind of story, these two Stanford PhD candidates started a little research project that soon became known around the world as “Google.”

Garage start-ups are not a foreign thing to us, but Google is different. Somehow, its origins seem clean to us. Its disinterest in bankrolls seems genuine – its altruism real. The impromptu “don’t be evil” motto is literally engraved on its walls.

This week I read Ken Auletta’s excellent new book Googled, in which he says,

“Naïveté and passion make a potent mix; combine the two with power and you have an extraordinary force, one that can effect great change for good or for ill. Google fervently believes it has a mission. ‘Our goal is to change the world.’ Google’s CEO, Eric Schmidt, told me. ‘Making money, he continued, is a technology to pay for it.’

For good or for ill is the question.

Ironically, this was not a good week for the Google empire. Earlier this week an Italian court convicted three Google executives of violating privacy protection when it refused to take down a YouTube video showing teenagers bullying an autistic boy.

On Friday, Microsoft came out swinging, voicing concerns about Google’s online dominance. The European Commission is looking into complaints against Google from three European Internet sites, one of which – a Microsoft subsidiary.

I can hear Microsoft now, saying, “Hey Google, don’t worry we kept the hot seat warm for you.”

In the past, Google has enjoyed a tough coating of trust on our part. We use Gmail at home, Google Docs at work, Google News when we wake up, YouTube before we go to bed, and Search about 27 times a day. We essentially donate our most intimate information so that Google can refine its product and make a buck. To us, however, it’s a free service that makes our lives infinitely better. And we love Google for it (I’m not being facetious here, I really love. Google.)

Despite my appreciation for all things Google, my reading this week of Auletta’s Googled has led me to at least question our allegiance to a company who verbally promises its best intentions and sticks our secrets in “the cloud.”

How many antitrust, anti-privacy allegations will it take to dent its armor? I’m not urging Google the giant to be blasted – what would I do without it? (Again, not sarcasm, really.) I’m just curious how this mega-brand does it. Can we find more Larrys and Sergeys with genius aspiration and selfless ambition – and bottle it.

I’m sure if it’s possible, Google will get around to it.

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McChesney’s media structure McNuggets of information

My parents’ definition of media = CBS, NBC, ABC.

My definition of media = Twitter, Hulu, digg.

Definitions and expectations are shifting, leaving the media industry in crisis mode. As online content becomes more popular, traditional outlets are cutting costs—and quality is the innocent casualty. This vicious cycle is driving more and more people to their laptops for custom news and entertainment in hopes of avoiding the over-commercialized, mega-controlled and pretty politicized.

You’re probably thinking, duh, this is nothing new. People have been aware of media bias for all of time.

So why then has nothing changed?

This week, in reading The Political Economy of Media, I came across Robert McChesney’s reasoning for our stalemate.

McChesney gives us three hypotheses why we, as Americans, have failed to restructure or even debate the organization of our media.

He says, “The first hypothesis is that the inability to publicly debate the capitalist basis of the media is a function of the general inability to make fundamental criticism of capitalism itself in U.S. political culture.” In other words, because we’re engrained with a sense of capitalism, we fail to question its power on the media.

The second hypothesis for the lack of debate over the control and structure of the media is that “the corporate media have actively cultivated, with considerable success, the ideology that the status quo is the only rational media structure for a democratic and freedom-loving society.” Has the democratic essence of free speech been controlled because it seems “too American” to say otherwise?

McChesney’s third hypothesis is that the nature of the corporate media itself has perpetuated the lack of legitimate debate. Meaning that the media has been able to control the public perception of the discussion surrounding its control and structure.

Though his ideas may seem a bit extreme, I can find a little truth in each of them. I definitely agree that we’re overdue for an overhaul. Which of these hypotheses seems the most plausible to you? Or would you disagree with McChesney altogether?

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