Has it taken a crisis for us to embrace the power of broadcast communications?

Has it taken a crisis for us to embrace the power of broadcast communications?
As head of insight and innovation, Callum operates across all of DRPG’s divisions, bringing teams together and identifying the most important trends and developments in communication, marketing, live events, video, digital, design and exhibition. He pulls together sector insights, developments in technology and general business trends in order to guide the comms and digital solutions produced for clients by the group. He has a wealth of knowledge within various industries and how they use comms.

For many years, technology has had the power to radically alter the live communications landscape. From virtual, augmented and mixed reality to AI, technology that is readily available to us has been in a position to dramatically change the way we engage with live events through broadcast. Often this type of communication has been pushed to the side as facilitating it has not been viewed as “business critical”. Of course, communication is now and always will be business critical but, for the first time, the technology and systems required to deliver business critical messaging are finally being addressed in organisations across the globe. What’s more, our audience are also getting crash courses in the required systems and digital collaboration on a scale never before required.

Based on this premise and on myriad myths surrounding this medium we performed extensive research to feed our latest whitepaper exploring the readiness of broadcast as a medium to support communication professionals during a time of crisis. The paper addresses the immediate fears and misconceptions of practitioners around using broadcast as an alternative to live interactions while vast swathes of the UK workforce are required to work from home.

For many years, we have been discussing the benefits of virtual events through broadcast technology. Comms professionals have been hugely receptive to and actively engaged with our evidence pointing towards a future where the virtual technologies, already available, will be widespread and integral to live experience delivery.

  • Budgets work harder: no transient venue cost. After the platform is built, you own it and you can deploy it again and again
  • Environmental argument: you can massively reduce your live strategy’s carbon footprint by digitising elements of the solution
  • Audience argument: platforms like Prime, Netflix and especially Twitch are training a future generation of audiences to not only expect broadcast content as part of live strategy, but be so immersed in it that they will be highly critical and expectant of the standards these aforementioned platforms deliver everyday.

However, despite the obvious benefits and the readiness of audiences to discuss and learn about these technologies; prior to March 2020, actual integration into live experience strategies and deployment has been patchy, largely devoid of strategy and plagued by constantly repeated myths and fears around broadcast as a viable communications medium. The challenges we have always faced at DRPG to get clients to start taking virtual engagement seriously have stemmed from largely unresponsive IT teams citing cost and digital transformation as nigh-on impossible to overcome, alongside repeated calls for explanations of the validity of the channel to deliver meaningful engagement. Over the past few months, perception has changed and these “insurmountable” challenges to tech and infrastructure have been overcome in a matter of days. This has provided a huge opportunity for a meaningful revolution in the way we approach live experiences for decades to come.

What was not overcome at the same time, was the constantly repeated myths and fears surrounding the ability of virtual tech to engage audiences effectively. Never before have we, as an agency had to deliver so much rationalisation for a solution to a comms or marketing challenge. When designing and pitching live experiences, we have never been asked to guarantee that our live audiences won’t get up and walk out of a presentation, leave early, chat to their friends, look at their phones, or even simply fall asleep. With broadcast however, we must justify to the nth degree the ability of the medium to do the job.

Most asking for justification, use Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney Plus, iPlayer or any number of the innumerable digital broadcast platforms available every single day. Our audience, has been ready to engage with this technology for years:

  • Netflix accounts for over 25% of all content streamed online
  • In February 2020 alone, the video game broadcasting platform Twitch recorded almost one billion hours of content broadcast
  • YouTube is the most popular search engine on the planet for people under 28. Yes, more popular than Google!

So what is happening here? Why are people not making the connection between the broadcast content they use every day and the medium they are now being asked to deploy here?

There is no clear answer other than that this unfamiliar territory is now the only option and the change is frightening. People are approaching broadcast as if the medium is new and untested and not, as in fact it is, the most popular, most engaged-with and most prevalent form of content delivery on the planet.

What we have here is an opportunity to do what we probably should have done five years ago and future-proof our live experience through virtual tech.

Immediately after the crisis, there is going to be a groundswell of desire for live interaction. Our audiences are going to demand an immediate and large-scale deployment of event solutions for obvious reasons. It’s vital that we don’t forget the lessons and that we align our reintroduced live communication strategy with our newly matured broadcast approach. The opportunity is huge, to continue to deliver the world-class event solutions we were deploying for years, but add the benefits of the broadcast strategy alongside them. There are very few arguments against attempting to get this right as soon as possible.

Editor’s note: You can download the whitepaper, The Value of Broadcast Communications, here.

Picture credit: DRPG

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