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Does anyone know how to use the fax machine anymore?

Jackie Lampugnano

I will admit this has been a common problem at Walker Sands in the past week. Whether it’s a question of “do I have to dial 9 first?” or “do I put the sheet facing up at me?”…we are not very fax machine savvy.

I tried to fax something yesterday and was very intimated by the machine because I honestly had no idea what I was doing. After the paper went through the machine, I was pretty much just crossing my fingers with the hope that the fax was successfully sent.

Yes, that’s sad.

But it also got me thinking about how technology has changed our lives. I mean, how often do we even use the fax machine these days?

The funny thing is that faxing used to be a crucial aspect of business operations. At one point, the “modern” fax machine was considered an innovative technology. Today, landline telephones are even becoming outdated (in my book, they already are).

All of these various advances in technology over the years have greatly impacted the way we communicate, receive and share news. As a PR professional, I read that sentence and immediately think about how technology has shifted the way we do our job.

Think about it: If technology changed the way people communicate and receive news, how couldn’t that directly affect our job as PR pros?

We demand communication in real-time. Digital communication overall is becoming our preference because it’s instantaneous: Emails (sometimes aren’t this way, but definitely can be), mobile (texting in particular), social media and the like provide us with that rapid response we desire.

Hey, if it’s available, why wouldn’t you communicate in the way that’s going to get you the quickest response?

Because communication channels and methods are shifting, so is the way we read and receive news. We now have the luxury of seeking out the news that interests us. We can filter out the things we don’t care about. We can simply turn to our social network to find a stream of news in real-time. And, in a way, we can become journalists by sharing the stories or creating our own.

That being said, the way PR pros operate has also changed.

To tie into my fax machine anecdote, press releases used to be faxed to editors at publications. Yet now we’re at a point where a press release itself is hardly relevant. Putting a press release out on the wire is most likely used to boost SEO (although it’s questionable whether that method even works), but other than that it’s not going to get the attention of editors/reporters without additional media outreach that’s targeted and personalized.

The way PR pros craft a message is another aspect of the industry that has greatly changed. We now have to consider the way in which our audience will receive the information because it’s not as simple as print, radio, or TV.

For instance, are they reading this news on a mobile device? Did it come from a tweet?

The communication needs to match the technology, meaning that it needs to be concise. If you can’t get to the point in 140 characters or less, people aren’t going to care because they either can’t read it easily on their device/via the channel they prefer, or because you’ve already lost their attention.

Technology also enables marketers (PR included) to bombard consumers and journalists with messages. The space is extremely cluttered. Now we have to be even catchier and get to the point sooner if we want to break through.

We also have to think in terms of headlines. We also have to consider things like: Is this sharable (both in terms of content and the length of it)? Will this resonate to a point where it spreads virally? Is this the right channel to share this information? Does my audience even access information through this channel? And in what way do they do so?

Today’s consumer is savvier than ever thanks to technological advances. They can verify any content out there by simply Googling it. They have a platform to blatantly disagree with situations they dislike, and they have the ability to rally a large audience behind them.

This is both a challenge and an opportunity. But I’ll save that for another blog post.

I’m not proud of my fax machine ignorance, but at least it inspired me to think about how far we’ve come. Technology will continue to evolve at a rapid pace, and news will evolve right along with it. The same thing goes for the way people interact with one another. Which inevitably means the PR profession will follow suit.

What will this job look like in the future? What will communication be like in the future?

I’m looking forward to finding out.