I know that the phrase ‘we need to talk’ makes some people nervous. It is often a statement made after a build-up of tensions which has led to the need for confrontation.

But in this day of all consuming digital communication, our thoughts and feelings are often reflected in hashtags, emojis and retweets. Where does the simple art of face-to-face communication fit?

Please do not misunderstand. I believe that social media and digital technology have enhanced the way we communicate and develop relationships. I’ve run sessions on strategic social media that work through the issues and opportunities presented by social media.

“Social media is enhancing human connectivity as people can converse in ways that were once not possible.” In this article, the idea of relationships growing and being supported by social media is argued clearly. Social media has provided a voice for those who were previously isolated or were disadvantaged. The world is now open to them via online platforms.

From an organisational perspective, the impact of digital has been immense. Notwithstanding the disruption on existing business models in the taxi industry, accommodation and retail (I have written about this before), but the traditional hierarchical organisational model is now redundant.

Our world of work has well and truly moved on from the industrial age and into a knowledge economy. Information sharing and collaboration is what drives economic growth. Traditional organisational hierarchies worked when command and control was the management style:

“In today’s post-digital world, business happens in a hyper-connected global network where people can work directly and effectively with each other without having to go through a central organization. This development has spawned a new breed of leaders who eschew traditional organization charts because they assume that high performing human organizations are complex adaptive systems that behave more like organisms than machines.”

“…In a rapidly changing world, intelligence is often the distinguishing competitive advantage. This puts hierarchical organizations at a disadvantage because, by design, they lack the processes to tap into the rich resource of their own collective intelligence.”

Organizations Are Not Machines, by Rod Collins

What does this all mean in terms of strategic communication?

At tandemVox, it means we all need to know how to talk – together. And I mean, really talk. Not talking at, but talking with. To co-design, share our intelligence and truly collaborate we all need skills in how to work effectively face-to-face.

In NBNCo’s report Super Connected Jobs, KPMG demographer Bernard Salt calls this the ‘soft skills.’

Knowing how to listen, understanding how to read body language, treating people respectfully and honestly and understanding the power of storytelling to engage. These soft skills are vital in our new world of work where tapping into our “collective intelligence” is the way to gain advantage.

Public relations at its core is about two way communication and understanding mutual benefit. And at tandemVox our motto is ‘create, collaborate, communicate.’ This can only be achieved with shared effort, shared voice.

If you are thinking about your organisation embracing the need for stronger and more authentic relationships — both internally and externally — we need to talk.

Jennifer Cromarty

Author Jennifer Cromarty

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