Arthur W. Page Society

Spring Seminar 2020 Day 1: The Urgency & Opportunity of CommTech

Page's first virtual conference kicked off today with a record number of members gathering to discuss CommTech- nearly 340 in all. Our backdrop was a pandemic that caused the conference to go digital, just as it has with so much of our daily lives. Fittingly, it's that inexorable march toward digitization, which began long before the pandemic but has accelerated since, that makes the need for the Communications function to speed up its adoption of CommTech much more urgent.

Below is a quick summary of the day's sessions.

A Conversation with Alan Murray, CEO of Fortune

Alan Murray | CEO, Fortune
Interviewed by Roger Bolton | President, Page

A crisis clarifies your focus and removes many cultural blockages. The old ways of doing business simply don't exist anymore. The digital future is now.

The transformation of business - mainly digitization and globalization - will continue to marginalize a significant portion of the workforce, especially as skilled labor is displaced by automation. Through this lens, it becomes clear that companies should and will have obligations to look after those vocational refugees. And conference attendees agree, with 56% saying they believe the pandemic will only accelerate the move toward stakeholder capitalism to address the human suffering caused by the crisis. Alan urges companies to start now to implement programs to account for that by retraining people and redirecting resources. The government has a role to play, especially to achieve the scale that is necessary. But companies must be at the forefront.

Why We Need to Accelerate CommTech Adoption

Rob Flaherty | Chairman, Ketchum

Today, our content needs to be informed by data. It needs to be tested, amplified, targeted and measured. All of that requires technology.

Last year was a milestone - the first year when people spent more time on a mobile device than any other screen. MarComm spending is moving into digital channels, especially those where messages can be targeted, behavior can be tracked and conversions can be measured. And, tellingly, the top 20 buzzwords in marketing are all MarTech-related, a trend that will catch up to communications vis a vis CommTech. The old paradigm of communications is past, and we must not let the opportunities of the emerging paradigm pass us by. This is our Darwinian moment - we must adapt ourselves to thrive in the current ecosystem, and that means we must embrace the digital tools, skills and methods that marketing has adopted to such great effect.

"Bullseye!": Building Stakeholder Relationships Through Microtargeting

Andrew Bleeker | President, Bully Pulpit
Robert Gibbs | Former Executive Vice President and Global Chief Communications Officer of McDonald's, Former White House Press Secretary'

The challenge for CCOs is to move from engaging people to persuading people.

Microtargeting is fundamentally about understanding audiences and how to relate to them effectively. As a means to that end, microtargeting begins with data analysis through first-party and third-party data and models that blend both. Overlaying this information yields insights about your audience - what they like, read and watch, who they follow, where they spend money, their worldview, etc. This knowledge is a powerful enabler of meeting people where they are and engaging them in personalized ways. But the ultimate goal is the outcome. Robert and Andrew worked on both Obama presidential campaigns and acknowledged that their job was to persuade those who could be convinced to take an action - to vote on election day. The strategy was to earn trust through authentic, personalized engagement enabled by microtargeting. Companies should think the same way, even if the desired outcomes are different.

The CommTech Revolution: The New Teams, Tools & Methods of Our Profession

Ethan McCarty | Founder and CEO, Integral Communications Group
Brittany Paxman | Senior Partner, ICF Next

Content and relationships are at the core of CommTech, but it's insights and workflows that are crucial to its application.

CommTech does indeed require a new technological toolset that includes everything from managing content and relationships to analyzing data and coordinating tasks. Equally important are the methods and people that make CommTech possible. The methods require new processes and frameworks that 'empower agility' and enable speed and scale, and the people will need to blend fundamental communications skills with new technical skills and forms of project management and collaboration. So, what makes CommTech different? It moves the discipline of communications from measurement of results to real-time instrumentation. From distributing content to designing journeys. From shaping perception to driving behavior. From instinct and executive consensus to scientific methods and precision. From fixed roles to recombinant teams. And from fidelity to a plan to embracing change as a mindset.

An Interview with Sophia the Robot

Steve Halsey | Chief Growth Officer, G&S Business Communications

Where I'm still behind humans is on empathy and a sense of humor.

In another first, we welcomed our first robot guest for a glimpse into our future. Sophia is a lifelike automaton that can crack jokes and wink an eye, and she's actually the first non-human citizen of a country (Saudi Arabia). But her kind is destined for much more. Though the technology is nascent, robots may one day be providing all kinds of services for their human contemporaries, from caring for the elderly and ill to running errands. She underscored a point made throughout the day: technology can be an enabler and facilitator, but it can never supplant the innately human art of decision making. As a member in the chat so aptly put it, albeit in a different session: "We have to be masters of the art and the science - more data is essential and helpful, but we still need the art."

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