The (rightfully) slow adopters of emerging channels

By Paul Grant

Many leaders are bombarded with new buzz-words and ideas, as the popular media and the masses start to embrace the opportunities provided by the ‘information age’. As each new trend finds a fan-base, pressure can start to mount externally and internally for these leaders to embrace and sign-off on emerging tools and techniques, without necessarily fully understanding or carefully evaluating the return on investment, the strategy, the effectiveness, the potential risks, and ultimately the bottom line.

Government and healthcare are two sectors that face very particular legislative challenges which are designed to protect ordinary citizens, and to provide a regulatory framework for ensuring due diligence. These same mechanisms can seem like an anchor preventing the adoption of change. In a rapidly changing global information economy, this can also effectively mean that healthcare and government are somewhat left behind, in the wake of more agile brands. Where there are already sceptical or cynical citizens, this ‘slowness’ to engage can potentially create a unnecessarily negative perception of the very organisations that are there to help and protect them.

Engagement – an opportunity or a threat?

From a marketing and communications perspective, many have said that there are entirely new rules of engagement for building market share and customer loyalty, and for interacting with the masses. Once a safe and considerably cautious concept, ‘engagement’ is one word that now inspires but a few in healthcare and government, and yet strikes fear in the minds of others. This is especially true given that the modern platforms for ‘engaging’ apportion so much control to the masses rather than the organisation.

Whilst not all emerging communucations channels are technology-based, it is in this area that we see  some sectors  ‘pushing back the envelope’ in their adoption of new channels. Others are lagging behind.

In many ways, it is ‘right’ that government and healthcare are slower to embrace new engagement channels. The risks can very easily outweigh the benefits, where the implications of a new trend or engagement platform are not fully known. Yet by observing the ‘cutting edge’ private sector brands, and analysing their successes and failures, government and healthcare can implement considered strategic interpretations of these methods, platforms or channels, operating within the context of due diligence and regulation.

The risk versus the return

In a worse case scenario, the implication of a poorly implemented engagement strategy mixing traditional and emerging channels affects the bottom line via negative feedback, revolt, or even virtual ‘rallies’ – all of which prove to be wonderful fodder for the traditional press machine, who seem to cotton on quickly and fan the flames of controversy. Unlike the newspapers and magazines of yesteryear, the content created in this day and age is preserved forever in a searchable archive for all and sundry to discover within a few clicks.

In a best case scenario, the implication of a carefully considered mixed channel engagement strategy means the formation or nurturing of positive and long-lasting loyalty from constituents or consumers, leading to word of mouth recommendations and positive traditional publicity. In some cases, the entire public perception of a brand has been reversed, leading to dominant market share. In the political arena, it has even led to the election of a new president.

Who cares about the final outcome?

If you are the custodian of an important public-facing organisation, it is imperative that you are actively involved in setting the strategy and objectives of engagement initiatives that include emerging channels. Sadly, you may find that many creative agencies are more interested in winning awards and contracts, than in caring about the long-term implications of your engagement strategy. Even some members of your internal marketing and communications department may have their own agenda to push new ideas through so as to potentially advance their own careers. You may find that in reality, very few people care about the end results as much as you do, which is why you are wise to take it slow and get it right the first time.

In the digitally-connected world we live in, there is rarely a second chance.

Rather than allowing a creative agency, or your marketing or communications department to ‘push through’ an innovative new engagement initiative, consider ‘workshopping’ the strategy at an executive level to ensure that you have considered the consequences fully. You will be given the tools to make an appropriate decision, based on real-world insight and sector-specific research. The trends and buzz-words will be de-mystified and you will be empowered to lead your organisation to successful engagement using the most appropriate mix of channels.

Slow adopters – quick tips

Here are some quick tips for executives looking to adopt emerging engagement strategies in a regulated sector:

  1. Commission or source sector specific research about the successes and failures of early adopters
  2. Undertake a high-level education on the tools and techniques being adopted by other sectors
  3. Set strategic objectives
  4. Bring key stakeholders together (marketing, communications, legal, medical, legislative etc) to set boundaries and protocols
  5. Direct the organisation in the strategic and appropriate use of new technologies.

If you would like to create a bespoke strategy for your organisation’s mix of traditional and new engagement channels, contact us and speak to one of our consultants.

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Meet the Author

Paul Grant