On tanks and digital communications

When I can't find anything to read in the 99p section of the Kindle store, I find myself looking at my bookshelves to see what I can reread. However, every now and again I find a book which was acquired in a fit of over exuberance and which hasn't ever been read. This is what happened a few days ago when I picked up a book called 'Men, ideas and tanks'.

A panacea?If you are interested in the topic, I can heartily recommend it as a bit of a page turner for its genre. However, even if you are not, one of the book's central messages is still useful for those who work in digital communications.

The book looks at how tanks were first used on the battlefield in World War 1. It shows how a number of schools of thoughts developed. This included those who saw this new piece of technology as a panacea to breaking the deadlock through to others who saw it as an new tool which should be integrated into a ‘system' made up artillery, infantry and aircraft. Perhaps, not surprisingly those who argued for the integrated approach won out and proved to be correct.

Look a new tool!This is also the case in digital communications. All too often a new app, tool or platform is hailed by their promoters as a game changer which every campaign must shape itself around to succeed - Gowalla and Foursquare back in 2008/9 spring to mind.

The fact is, just as British commanders did in World War 1 and integrated the Tank into a winning ‘system' those working in digital communications need to do the same - put the latest tools into a system which delivers results.

Creating a winning 'system'While each campaign will need its own ‘system' tweaked to be truly effective, I find myself coming back to the same set of questions when planning what this should look like:

  1. Who is the audience?

  2. What is the message to them?

  3. Where can we reach them?

  4. What do we them to do?

  5. How can we encourage them to do this?

  6. What assets do we already have to do this?

  7. What new assets do we need to create?

  8. How do we put these into a system which works?

  9. How can we see if the system is working?

  10. Do we have the resources we need?

Each time I run through this set of questions new questions come forward which help inform that particular system, but these 10 remain.

PrologueIf you think I am stretching the military reference just remember that as a sector we have a Magazine called ‘Campaign' and commentators regularly talk about the Air and Ground war, so go and get in touch with your inner tank commander.

Also the interests of full disclosure I studied War Studies at Kings College London if that wasn't already abundantly clear and if you think the during the Battle of a Hundred Days.