Communications in the age of digital by default


A few days ago, I spotted this refreshing tweet from the new Chief Information Officer (CIO) for the Government of Canada, Alex Benay:

My response to him was that I totally agree, and for federal communicators to be in alignment with that digital by default orientation, we should phase out the ubiquitous, but antiquated job title “E-Communications Advisor”. I see this title across government (and, by the way, only across government) on a regular basis, and every time, it conjures up images of a retro cubicle office stuck in a 1990s time warp. My twitter exchange with the CIO seemed to draw a lot of interest, so I thought I’d raise the issue on the blog.

I bristle at the odd “E-Communications” title because it seems to weirdly assume that there are somehow two distinct categories of communications: electronic and non-electronic. That flies in the face of what we know to be common and best practice in communications shops today – the trend is overwhelmingly to have integrated communications teams, driven by content strategy. The focus is on storytelling and content animated through various channels in a way that is tactic-agnostic. While communications teams used to be organized by siloed functions like media relations and speechwriting, today they are structured to provide integrated strategic support across channels. Even internal and external communications are increasingly converging in strategy and content. This strategic direction is codified in the Government of Canada’s Communications Policy and Directive.

If we take a step back and look at the big picture, can you imagine other professional groups using this approach to their job titles? Say, for example:

  • E-architect
  • E-accountant
  • E-researcher

It makes no sense because we assume that professionals are using electronic tools as part of their work in today’s digital age. If anything, communicators should be at the forefront of having a digital by default mindset and strategy in our work. Showing up to a meeting with an outdated and irrelevant title is a credibility killer – let’s take responsibility for communicating the value of our profession and start with level-setting more modern, useful job titles.

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