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Not if, but when: the radical reflection and PR rethink waiting around the corner

Imagine it is this time next year. Or even the year after when all the bugs are ironed out of the new web-enabled devices that will pop into Christmas stockings this December. Your organisation has some visitors arrive. They are all wearing Google Glass. What do you do? Ask them to remove their eyewear or accept that your interactions are likely to be live-streamed or captured on video to be shared with their stakeholders? 

Or you're serving in a restaurant. The customers come in, again, with wearable transmitting devices. Do you quietly present them with their meal or, as was the case last year, create a scene that ends in physical assault because the augmented-reality digital eye-wear cannot be removed?

In the same way that ten years ago the developments on the web disrupted the way we communicate and interact with others, bringing us to today's point of ubiquitous mobile engagement, the next wave of wearable (or implanted) devices  will change forever not just the way we communicate, but the way we live. I wonder how many people, organisations, businesses and governments are ready for this shift?

 

There are countless scenarios that can be conjured when you think about the effect the next wave technologies will have on our lives and, from a professional standpoint, they are scenarios that all public relations and communication practitioners should be rehearsing before they find themselves, and their organisations, 'always on'.  It is a big leap for most - a leap highlighted by the recent instruction to journalists not to tweet from a press conference. Even today this is a redundant instruction, but how would the organisation concerned react to the press conference being live streamed through a device such as Glass? The journalist attends a press conference as the representative of others. The expected delay between briefing and publication is the assumption of the host, based on older communication speeds and use of technology.  As a journalist, my expectation would be to get the information back as soon as possible, and, if that means as it happens, then all the better.

The reality is not what shall we do if this happens, it is actually what are we going to do when this happens - and that 'when' is just around the corner. It's not just Google Glass either. Many companies are working on wearable devices and the next 'next wave' is likely to include invisi-wear, such as contact lenses, implants and the like. Unlike today when people at least have to speak to their phone, pretty soon you simply won't know who is communicating 'elsewhere' when you meet as the process will be seamless and simultaneous.

I meet with a lot of people who debate and discuss their 'social media strategy'. Frequently it revolves around tactics on the big networks - Facebook, Twitter and the like rather than creating a digital strategy that underpins their organisational and communcation goals. Rarely does it include Google+ or Hangouts and it inevitably involves a discussion around how to convince the organisation involved that today's communication channels are chaotic, concurrent, confused and cannot be controlled. 

Over the last ten to twelve years I've said many times that the available technologies we have at our disposal don't simply transform the way we communicate - they transform the organisations themselves. That's where the biggest changes occur. Individuals and organisations that meet with success in social communication have inevitably undergone this transformative process from the inside out.  They have a clear understanding of their role, provision or service, they have identified the communities that are critical to their licence to operate then set about forming networks of engagement mutually beneficial for all those involved. Yet even those organisations will find themselves disturbed once again by the device-shifts ahead as the reality of what we do rather than what we say becomes the primary organisational asset it should have always been.

As a matter of urgency, I would hope that practitioners convince their organisations to focus on their inner workings and deliverables. To focus on their employees and how to equip them to be 'always on'. On their suppliers and customers and agreed levels of acceptable shareability. 

As the mobile phone is replaced in its ubiquity by the wearable or implanted device the question every public relations professional should be asking is this: how ready are you for the technology waiting around the corner and the change it will bring to your organisation?

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