Imagine this scenario. A brainstorm for a long-term agency
client results in a brilliant idea for a microsite to support an upcoming
campaign. It’s sold as a rich user experience and a great vehicle to increase
social awareness and generate buzz. The catch: It has to launch in two weeks to
coincide with the brand’s new rollout and to date, not a single person from the
digital team has been brought on board. The result: a difficult
conversation with a crazed technology team tasked to help turn this idea into a
The truth is, for many, technology is a four-letter word. In
the communications space, it’s not uncommon that creatives take any and all
requests that involve code and hurl it over the fence to the ripped-jean-wearing,
scooter-riding, tattoo-revealing digital group sitting in the dark space in the
With my trusty scooter situated conveniently by my side,
this is my challenge for my communications peers – consider this:
Technology is NOT a burden.
Development is not the black magic
that you think it is.
It is not a series of smoke and
mirrors performed by an expert magician. (Actually, sometimes it is)
Instead of harboring these views, you
need to reframe your perspective on coding as a tool, that if treated as
something that everyone can learn, understand and explore, can be harnessed
for endless possibilities.
As communications experts bringing creativity to
our clients, we all stand to benefit by having a more nuanced understanding of
what technology is capable of delivering. This will inevitably improve the
products we design and deliver.
Here are four approaches to help communications
professionals bridge the gap of digital technology and unlock the potential of
their next marketing and communication program.
1. Start Simple.
We all have to start somewhere. Master the basics as you
initiate your personal digital education.
Pick up a pet project and learn by doing:
Buy a URL, set up hosting and post a file to
your very first website
Keep a blog on Wordpress or Tumblr
Try every social network you can imagine
Become a student of digital trends
to become more digitally aware, literate, and active
2. Learn to code.
Of course it’s not that easy, but we can’t ideate unless we
understand the world in which our ideas live, right?
Acquire the building blocks of digital technology – learn
the 1s & 0s, I promise it will help you ideate, sell, and communicate to
both your teams and clients.
Take a course online at Code Academy,
CodeRacer, Udacity, Khan Academy, etc.
Get back into a real-world class at General
Assembly or Coursera
3. Speak in Tongues.
GUI, Linux, Sharepoint, SSO, php, HTML, CSS, Java, .Net,
Ruby on Rails, PNG, PSD, Abstraction, Recursion, etc., etc…..
Even if you don’t have a clue as to what any of these terms
mean I assure you they are incredibly important and are essential to the success
of every digital program you are working on.
Understand these terms (and the many, many others that exist).
Explore these concepts and engage in a richer and more meaningful dialogue with
your development teams. Speaking a common language will help you understand
what technologists do, as well as help you push the limits of your creativity to
achieve more with your ideas.
Start following the experts on Twitter – observe
their language and engage in conversation with them.
4. Think like a developer.
Programming is simple – well, that is clearly a lie. But for
those of us that don’t have to worry about the specifics of a programming
language’s syntax, we can instead benefit from understanding the creative
problem solving techniques our developers must endure as they bring our ideas
Sit with your development team and try to understand exactly
how that super cool widget you are creating for that microsite that pulls in
social content and displays it across a sea of big data works. I promise you, it likely requires a technological lift that is awe-inspiring!
Learn more by asking your developers the right questions:
Where is all the data and information stored?
How does it get from a database to the website?
What is the algorithm you are using to compute
all that great stuff?
Draw me a diagram that explains the user
Their answers will shed light on the mystery that is
Overall, digital communications technology is not rocket
science, but it does require a sophisticated and specific level of thinking.
Start simple, learn the basics of coding, acquire the language to better
communicate and strive to understand programming methodology. In time, you will
become a pro (or at least better understand your limits).
Clients come to us with game-altering expectations and tight
timelines; as creative thinkers, we marketers are tasked with delivering in
epic proportions. Learning to decode technology will truly unlock the potential
of your next big idea.