Are You a Technology Tester?

Years ago, it was our Web team that brought any new and interesting technology to the table for evaluation and set up.  At my marketing communications firm, we relied on these folks to simplify the complicated and to enlighten us.  For example, they took a lot of time to explain WebTrends, and they showed the communications team how visitors/traffic came into our newsroom, especially after a big news announcement.  I also recall the first time they introduced us to an email marketing solution, similar to iContact (although the name escapes me) for targeted distribution. It was also the Web team who came to our aid when we needed photos, logos, and other supporting materials uploaded to our newsroom.  I’m fairly certain that we interrupted them quite a few times in a day with our technology questions.

I guess you could say back in the day, we were non-tech and we knew it.  We proudly updated our excel spreadsheets and sent separate emails to contacts.  At the time, one senior account executive came close to giving his resignation when we started to use the new email platform to reach journalists.  He was perfectly happy with media lists on spreadsheets, and reaching out to journalists individually.  Luckily, we were able to educate him and he learned a better and more efficient approach.

Why did our view on technology change? We found out there were tech tasks we were able to accomplish ourselves. That’s right, we were empowered to roll up our sleeves to learn technology and achieve our goals.  What exactly did that mean for us in terms of a new function?  It required the communications professionals on my team to adapt a different mindset and take on a new process. When we wanted to be more productive, when we realized that there was a more targeted approach to reach a particular group that wanted to hear our announcements, when we thought that our communications needed improvement for increased impact and when we had the information at our fingertips through the Internet, that’s when we started with our own technology research and experimentation.

Today, like any other initiative, we must do our due diligence with a cost benefit analysis to determine what would be the best technology, platform, or tools to get the communication out and to reach the right people.  Of course, we consult with Web or IT, especially if it’s a resource that needs to integrate with an overall organizational system.  However, in the past, depending on the technology or the tool that was needed, the process didn’t necessarily start with us.  It’s great that we have direct access to information and resources that we can review, compare and digest to make an informed decision.  The Internet and social media made this more than a possibility; it made it our reality.

In the last few years, my teams have reviewed, compared and made decisions about collaborative platforms, different media channels for social engagement, tools that measure influence, back end content management systems, social media monitoring/tracking services, email marketing platforms, social media release platforms, project management systems, online survey tools, and the list goes on and on.  It’s invigorating to be in a position to research, demo, test, evaluate and then decide what technology best suits a particular program or helps with the productivity in your department.

The technology tester is no small role.  It’s a critical part of improving business communications.  Suddenly communications professionals are selecting the tools and resources that will help with productivity and program effectiveness.  Finding and selecting the right technology is a part of the strategic process.  Before, we were trained and then used the technology it to implement the initiative.  However, when you’re a part of the evaluation and the selection process, you feel empowered and inspired to take a deeper interest in the overall success of the technology’s use.

There are different levels of technology testing from the smaller tools to the larger platforms.  Regardless of the size or scope of the technology, the technology tester is happy to roll up his/her sleeves, do the comparison-shopping and demos/trials that are necessary to make decisions.  It’s important to make technology testing a part of your function.  But, it’s not a one-time deal.  When you’re a tester that means your executives rely on you to know what’s new in communications technology and how the channel, platform or tool can benefit the business.

Of course, understanding where and how to communicate on behalf of a brand and knowing how to use the appropriate technology, tools and platforms is an ever-changing process.  However, when you dive into technology, from research through to implementation and measurement, it makes you more of an asset to your organization.  Anything that makes you stand out with new and valuable information is worth the time and effort that goes into the testing.

Are you a technology tester and what have you tested lately?