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It may be 98 degrees outside, but winter is coming.
As I mentioned in my previous post, I have a passion for period TV, and I really love “Game of Thrones.” In case you’re among the uninitiated, the series chronicles seven noble families fighting for control of Westeros, a mythical land that — among several fascinating traits — features seasons and climates of varying and completely unpredictable lengths and severities.
“Winter is coming” is the foreboding promise and motto of House Stark. The meaning behind the words is one of warning and constant vigilance. In a land where seasons are of an indeterminate length, this mantra reinforces that winter remains on the horizon even if we just wrapped what is the hottest July on record, and it very well could be a blazing-hot, ozone action day in your neck of the woods.
Uncertainty is certain: we know that we can’t definitively predict what our next business and communications “season” will be like — or even how long the one we’re in will last. Variables like the presidential election, European and Chinese economic instabilities, groundbreaking R&D and emerging cultural phenomena can shift communications and business climates overnight. But as communications professionals, we shouldn’t feel powerless in the face of unpredictability, because knowing that change is inevitable can actually center us — just as House Stark’s mantra keeps them focused and prepared.
I’m not the type to bask in the sun and deal with winter once it arrives; in fact, I’ve found that the sun’s warmth is all the more enjoyable knowing there’s a plan in place for my firm’s and our clients’ winters. I’ve found that the following steps have helped us prepare even our fastest-moving clients for the inevitable change in seasons, whenever that may occur:
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We live in a hyperconnected world that moves forward into new realms every minute — like augmented virtual reality for business uses being explored on Georgia Institute of Technology’s campus in Atlanta, and that means even more consumption of news and data of all kinds, synthesized and scrubbed for your viewing. Hyperconnected is often described as a term for “people who feel they need to communicate virtually — via email, mobile phone or text — 24 hours a day.” Several recent research findings have shown that some hyperconnected individuals may even wake up during the night to check whether or not they have been contacted. Companies like Ericsson have predicted that connected devices could outnumber connected people by a ratio of six to one by 2020, and the scramble to make sense of that shows up in sociology discussions.
The multi-channel, multi-device approach to communications is accelerating for all of us, and data actually supports predictions that by 2020, the next young adult generation will be wired differently. Jack Loechner’s March 2012 Research Brief from the Center for Media Research looked at “The Impact of Hyperconnectivity,” and discovered that more than 55 percent of those surveyed believe that this statement will be true:
“In 2020, the brains of multitasking teens and young adults are wired differently from those over age 35, and overall, it yields helpful results. They do not suffer notable cognitive shortcomings as they multitask and cycle quickly through personal and work-related tasks. Rather, they are learning more and they are more adept at finding answers to deep questions, in part because they can search effectively and access collective intelligence via the Internet.”
But other experts, such as David Ellis, director of communications studies at York University, disagree. He indicated that he sees the hyperconnectivity experience making them less productive, and adds that most of them do not understand the digital tools, according to the report.
As public relations practitioners, we really do not have time to debate what is upon us. Statistics in a number of categories prove out this intensity of hyperconnections, from no “real” vacations away from phones and tablet devices, to the mushrooming of new social networks with new learning curves that start with expanding personal networks, such as Pinterest and Google’s Goggles, but will grow into even more important business toolsets as time goes on.
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