Taking the ‘E’ Train From Uncle Knowlty to Google News

Fifteen-plus years in the business, there have been many steps to reach the platform when boarding the latest (and greatest) career train in communications practice.

This past weekend legendary news anchor Knowlton Nash left his Underwood behind for an eternity of newsgathering with the big man upstairs. His passing has put a sharp focus on how we receive our news, and to that matter how we receive all our information.

Mr. Nash delivered the news during a time when news was called news and did not hold the moniker of ‘mainstream.’  Yes during the eighties other tributaries of local and world news babbled on, but your channels of delivery were usually left to water coolers and documentaries on TV.

With social media his eulogy was broadcast across a whole new (at least to some) information environment called the internet. This ‘brave new’ environ also made his story viewable to tens of thousands of viewers – now referred to as followers. Certainly not the case before cable television when your antenna router barely ever worked.

Today, this sharing of information is called repurposing; more creatively referred to as ‘reimagining’ as C.C. Chapman espouses in Content Rules. No longer is repurposing something you did with curios you picked up at your neighbourhood yard sale. Those are destined be at curb side within the year. This sort of repurposing is now the underpinning of good communication planning when utilizing social media methodology.

For this senior communicator (no discounts yet, just grey hair) social media and all of its followers, likes, favourites and god-forbid trolls, represent a new and exciting way to deliver your message to a much wider and knowledgeable audience.

So as I board the social media train I start as a passenger but almost inevitably will become its engineer.

Comfortably seated I am inspired and motivated as this new frontier unfolds before me. It has birds (Twitter); it has a massive community centre where sharing recipes and personal activities (Facebook) can help me understand certain behaviours.  It holds many massive libraries that thankfully don’t have late fees and offer unlimited resources (Google Books). Heck it even has places you can view pictures of cold, frosty micro brews (Printerest) when you forget you live in Ontario and it’s a holiday Monday. Been there done that!

I do digress….

Beer aside, the key reason for boarding the social media train is survival. I’m not talking about the kind of survival where you may have to gnaw off a limb or two (I don’t know how that guy did it), I’m talking about pure professional survival in media relations, public relations and stakeholder relations today. Although social media is certainly no panacea for whatever strategy you may have in mind, it does offer a communicator a different playing field to enrich engagement, spur advocacy and boost sales. But simply sitting on the social media train and staring out the window cannot be an option. (Unless of course you are travelling Business Class on Via 1; as I do love those cold Heinekens). Thirst aside it’s time to get cracking a plan the trip!

For a shot at social media fiefdom, I have enrolled into the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Education’s Foundations of Digital Communications Strategy and Social Media. Yes it is a mouthful but certainly worth repeating as you see that you are by no means the only passenger on this train. Other professional communicators, marketers and data junkies have booked a seat working towards a certificate in Digital Strategy and Communications Management. Each with a particular vision on how they will create, improve and accelerate their digital footprint. Yes, digital footprint. Nothing Sasquatch here, just looking to put your big toe into the cyber sea of social media.

I must go as the conductor tolls what’s coming up down the line. ‘Next stop will be clicking, doxing, surfing and frisking.’ Interesting destinations for sure. I especially like the frisking one as I think we are all frisky when the need arises.