Welcome to Brilliance@Work, a new series of profiles about stellar communication professionals and their best practices at work.
Veteran communicator Angelo Fernando has written about big shifts in advertising, marketing, media and education for the past 18 years. He has worked for Ogilvy and Mather and JWT, trained in broadcasting at the BBC in London and later turned to podcasting. He was a technology columnist for U.S.-based Communication World (CW) magazine published by the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) and is now a technology columnist for Sri Lankan-based business magazine LMD.
Angelo is a prolific blogger of the Hoi Polloi Report, http://hoipolloi.wordpress.com, and a dedicated teacher who runs a computer and technology lab at an elementary school in Scottsdale, Ariz. He is also author of the recently released book Chat Republic: How Social Media Drives Us to Be Human 1.0 in a Web 2.0 World. This book addresses content curation, podcasting, crowd sourcing, ‘media snacking,’ and civic journalism, and interprets what all this chatter might mean for business, politics and the rest of us. For more information, visit www.chatrepublic.net.
To learn more about the intersection of technology and society, join Angelo as he presents “The Human Approach to Communication in a Web 2.0 World” at the Feb. 20 IABC Phoenix monthly professional development luncheon in Phoenix, Ariz. During this event, Angelo will share his insight from interviews with and published work by thought leaders at Facebook, Ogilvy, the Occupy Wall Street movement, the U.S. State Department, Google, and Intel. Attendees will have the opportunity to purchase copies of Chat Republic at a discounted rate. Register for the luncheon at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/iabc-phoenix-luncheon-human-approach-to-communication-in-a-web-20-world-registration-10123801563. For more information, visit www.iabcphoenix.com.
In the meantime, read on as Angelo shares his insights on “how we ought to be more authentic even as we embrace the tools that turn us into non-stop communication machines.”
Peggy Bieniek: What interested you in this particular topic?
Angelo Fernando: I am a big fan of the spoken word and audio over video. As all NPR and public radio listeners know, conversations are powerful ways of exchanging ideas.
PB: How have your personal experiences influenced your writing?
AF: I was coaxed into writing for a business magazine. It was a big shift from being a copywriter at an ad agency (JWT). Advertising forces you to consider your audience. Writing for print media forces you to tell a story and consider how your story is received months after you submitted it.
PB: How did you come up with the title for your book?
AF: I was always amused hearing people repeating the phrase “If Facebook was a country” as if it was a thing to revel in. I have also been fascinated by the power of conversations and the spoken voice that, minus cameras and other distractions, conveys much, much more.
PB: What is the main message you want your readers to understand?
AF: My overarching message is that we risk losing what makes us human by being so distracted that we prefer to scan headlines in 140 characters, rather than dig deep into the issues. We risk losing the art of listening because we are busy thinking how we may craft the next ‘tweet burp.’ After reading my book, I hope my readers reconsider what goes on in the name of marketing communication, PR and corporate communication.
PB: What kind of research did you do for this book?
AF: I spoke to many IABC-ers and scoured social media literature for some powerful ideas that have been ignored. Ultimately, Chat Republic is about being social, not media machines, so I looked at historical uses of communication to see what made early communicators so engaging. I couldn’t resist some of the contemporary events that make us so digital and so analog – revolutions and diplomacy for instance – because they shed more light on the ‘Republic’ motif. Communication is now in the hands of the hoi polloi (the common people).
PB: What were your goals and intentions for this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
AF: I wanted to say the things that tend to be unsaid in many of the social media literature. I also wanted to give readers a balanced view of how social media is being used outside the Americas as I was born and schooled in south Asia. I was fortunate that Chat Republic launched in Sri Lanka first (it was a lucky accident – long story!). My launch events were run by the Marketing Institute and an ad agency. It was extremely well received by the marketing, media and advertising community, including a very active population of social media practitioners. The CFO of Saatchi and Saatchi in Greater China (who reviewed the book) ordered copies for the Singapore office staff.
PB: What makes your book stand out from the crowd?
AF: This is not a how-to book or a ‘Dummies’ style book. Chat Republic takes a deep dive into the issues behind social media and examines whether our transition into digital is helping or hurting us. I spent a lot of time footnoting the ideas and commentary so that anyone could go into these issues even deeper. And yet, I am told, it is a very fast read.
PB: When you hear from your readers, what do they say?
AF: Someone told me this was a book she wished she wrote. Many have told me that they were once skeptical about all of these areas and now find that they could approach social media with a lot more context.
PB: How has the growth in digital media affected corporate communication?
AF: Corporate communication will never be the same now that the hoi polloi have as much influence and ‘transmission’ power as Big Business. At the very least, digitally connected citizens (and by this I also mean customers, stakeholders, etc.) have forced corporations to be better listeners. It could also be a nightmare learning to live with a lot less control over once watertight corporate functions such as branding, positioning, product design and customer service.
PB: How can we help our organizations become more human in a Web 2.0 world?
AF: We need to encourage organizations to rebalance their digital and analog efforts and let their people be human first and digital second. It is unfortunate to see how some organizations have no way to be contacted via phone because they rather you send an email or a text message.
PB: What is the biggest thing that people THINK they know about social media, that isn’t so?
AF: People like to believe that the one or two tools they use are the only ones that matter. On the other side, you get people who believe that everyone in social media is vain and that connecting via social media is an accident waiting to happen.
PB: What is the most important thing that people DON’T know about social media that they need to know?
AF: That this thing we call social media was supposed to make us more social; that it could make us better antennas, not loudspeakers.
PB: What are some other emerging media you see on the horizon?
AF: First, social media fatigue, for sure. People are going to ignore or cancel many of their social media accounts. Our brains are not wired for so much information. With that said, the emerging media might be those that are not intrusive and even those that scale down our network to the few who matter. There’s a reason why Path (which limits one’s network to 50), and Snapchat (which lets shared images disappear after being viewed) are gaining traction. I’ve also looked into an alternative to LinkedIn called Somewhere.
PB: What are your current projects?
AF: I’m a teacher. I am passionate about getting students to stop being mindless content consumers and start becoming content creators. As such, my days are filled with incorporating digital media into education and my classes, even while I try to help them balance their digital and analog lives. I’m just starting on an ambitious series of lessons on coding, blogging, and teaching first-graders to use microphones and Audacity. Audio is a great way to get them to speak, to share and to engage with each other. I’m also a robotics coach and am toying with a book on robotics.
PB: What are some of your favorite resources for content curation?
AF: Wikipedia is still one of my best content curation sites, warts and all. I love Story Corps and Storify. One the podcasting side, I’m fascinated by SoundCloud.
PB: What is your contact information for questions, comments and ideas?
AF: Email me at email@example.com. My Twitter handle is @heyangelo. I’m happy to share this information, and I look forward to hearing from your readers.
What best practices in communication would you like to share in future Brilliance@Work profiles? What are your ideas for topics or people to be featured in upcoming profiles?