Welcome to our guest blogger, Taylor Ovalle, a Communications Manager at KPMG.  Taylor’s blog is based on a seminar she attended at Makovsky titled, “Communicating in the Age of AI” presented by Jon Iwata, the former Chief Brand Officer at IBM.

Echoing the halls at KPMG US, the phrase “future-ready” can be heard on a near daily basis. Unofficially, it has become the new mantra of this Big Four accounting firm. At its core, the catch-phrase signifies a changing era propelling us to adapt to a disruptive landscape by retraining our professionals with new skills, embracing new technologies, and modernizing our workplace (hello open workspaces, treadmill desks, and the gig economy). Though seemingly targeted at our accounting professionals and firm leaders, the notion that one should be future-ready most certainly trickles down and can be applied to all departments and all levels across nearly all industries and professions.

Makovsky Integrated Communications recently hosted an event on their home turf – the 15th floor of East 34st street, NYC, to drive this point home.

On Wednesday, May 23, 2018, I along with fifty or so wide-eyed communicators attentively waited the words of the featured presenter for this intimate event, Jon Iwata, the former Chief Brand Officer at IBM. Jon shared valuable insights, inspiring the room of attendees like a coach during a half-time pep talk with lessons learned and new approaches to take back to our respective companies.

The title of Jon’s presentation was “Communicating in the Age of AI, but the talk largely centered on the key components necessary to succeed as a communications professional in the 21st century, or the KPMG translation: how to be a future-ready communicator.

Jon described the ideal modern communications department (something he helped achieve while at IBM) as one that uses a ‘social-first’ style of communication which includes four aspects: content, people, spend, and analytics.

For anyone living under a rock, social media is where the world lives (paraphrasing Jon here). A content strategy is critical – what stories do you want to tell that acutely represent your brand and culture? Shared content on social media and across review sites has become more credible from individuals than companies (insert name of any number of companies that recently suffered a social media shellacking).

Abraham Lincoln once aptly said and Jon (much later in time) fittingly quoted, “Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”

Every employee at every company has the power to be an effective and impactful ambassador. It’s critical, therefore, to train our people to be good at sharing content.

Later, paid campaigns can be used to micro target the audiences that you want to reach most. Future-ready communicators must use analytics to tell them where to go and what’s happening in order to get better at producing and sharing content.

On the internal communications front, we tend to celebrate a day’s work well done when an

email campaign gets approved and sent out. But how many people opened the content? What was the read rate? Jon challenged the room to try different subject lines, play around with the time and day of distribution, or eliminate a piece of content altogether. Do we really need to send that? As communicators, we should constantly strive to improve at our jobs. We must, he said, “live or die based on outcome – not on just getting things out there.”

As the conversation evolved into artificial intelligence and machine learning, we discovered that marketers and advertisers are ahead of the curve. Ad agencies are already using IBM’s cognitive Watson technology to generate better and better ads as they continue to “learn” what works and what doesn’t (again, it’s all about metrics).

“We will eventually become cognitive communicators,” Jon said. He predicts “CommTech” to be the next iteration of the communications profession – and that very soon, roles, titles, tools, and vocabulary will catch up to the already emerged technologies of our time. It’s already happening at some companies, and more companies will undoubtedly follow.

Ultimately, the presentation left me inspired to push for change and modernization within my own department. As I write this, I’m actually multitasking by preparing a pitch hoping to convince my boss that a weekly newsletter should be axed because it’s superfluous. Why? Because the analytics say so.

Within no time at all, I’m confident we’ll see more traditional communicators make the jump over to CommTech, or to whatever nomenclature develops. In choosing this profession, I know we all have a little ‘future-ready’ inside of us. Let’s unleash it.

Taylor Ovalle is a Corporate Communications Manager at KPMG US. Follow her on Twitter @tayovalle and check out @KPMGUS_News for lots of future-ready news and insight.

The views and opinions expressed herein are my own and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of KPMG LLP.

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