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Stephanie Tönjes

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Should communicators be allowed to shun social media?

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Daniel Neuen, Editor-in-Chief of trade journal PR Report, asked this question in a recent article (in German). I often ask myself this same question. And it's simple to answer, namely with "yes" - of course they are allowed. But is it professional behavior? Is it keeping up with the times? 

Social Media Muffel?

Still grumpy or do you already tweet?

You probably know someone like them: that kind of communicator who completely refuses to participate in any part of the "new digital world." It raises my hackles as soon as I hear the word "new." Let's take a closer look at Twitter, for example, which first went online in 2006. Yes, you read that right: it's been around for eleven whole years! That alone is a sign for me that the association between "social media" and "new" simply doesn't work anymore. Does that mean every communicator has to be a social media enthusiast? Of course not. But in many cases, such responses have their roots in insufficient skills. What's the best way to get around platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram? I fully understand if people want to get started slowly with such things. It also takes the right attitude, however. And I see a lack of this supportive attitude in many places. There are still far too many of them: the "communicators" who practically brag about not being on any social media. That's what employees are for, after all. They'll take care of it for you. There's no time for all that new-fangled stuff anyway. No time? Really? Who do you plan on talking to when even journalists prefer being contacted through social media nowadays? What else do you spend your valuable time on? I'd really like to know.

A question of attitude

I see a clear lack of willingness to be open for new things here. The world doesn't stand still and we have to move on with the times. Why did we decide to pursue a career in communication? Probably because we enjoy being in contact with other people. Getting connected. Being heard. So why the sudden lack of curiosity when it comes to new methods of communication? The missing interest in networking with new people? Why don't we see the potential that lies in social networks? As I see it, taking pride in not using social media is an absolute no-go, and is simply embarrassing for a professional communicator. How do you intend to advise others on communication matters if you only know the current communication channels through hearsay?

Communicators of the future

The PR industry often speculates about what the communication of the future might look like. They talk about skills that a communicator should have and about bots that might take their jobs. But be sure to consider the following aspect: in today's corporate communications, the positioning of the management board is one of the key duties. Will that remain true in the future? After all, the boards will have their own generational change as well. Then we'll have digital natives sitting in the executive suites, who have grown up using social networks. Imagine that these board members have the attitudes of digital natives and manage their social media accounts independently! Connecting with their stakeholders themselves and sending out messages they feel are important. And without asking you for your opinion! As I see it, this isn't just a future probability; it's exactly what will happen in the foreseeable future. And how will you proud social media hermits advise your board members then?

As Mr. Neuen accurately put it in his article: "In the old days (at least I would hope so), no one became Head of PR without ever talking to a journalist." And especially if they didn't even express interest in doing so.

Spot the potential and don't miss the boat – that's my strong recommendation!

What skills do today's (and tomorrow's) communicators need to have? Can a communicator afford to be proud of the fact that they're not active on social networks?

Auf der re:publica (v.l.): Lena Raschke, Stephanie Tönjes und Philipp Schindera.

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Philipp Schindera

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Chatbots – the communicator's little helpers

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