On the train back from the DiG Festival, as I looked out the window trying to make sense of the information overload, I was reminded of something one of the presenters said, “Just do one thing.” That is, it is more important to get started on one idea than procrastinate on many.

So, while I think about what the one thing is that I will put into action, let me share with you a bit more about the festival and a few of the moments that, as a communications professional, made me stop and think.

About the festival

The 2015 DiG Festival and Conference was held in Newcastle on Thursday 16th and Friday 17th October. The festival is loosely based on the extremely successful SXSW festivals in Austin, Texas – leading technology paired with artistic vibrancy.

The Australasian DiG Festival featured presentations and workshops focused on digital innovation within a socially conscious, sustainable context. This meant techies, designers, digital developers, policy makers/managers, and small business owners got together to debate and discover new ways to work. For the first time, this year the DiG Festival included a Mental Health Stream with a strong focus on technology and communications.

As I listened to each presentation and attended the workshops, my brain was buzzing with new ideas to put into practice in my work life. On the train ride home, it was a little overwhelming looking back over at my notes and tweets. So much to absorb and so many opportunities to follow up!

So, in an effort to get to closer to that “one thing”, here are my top three takeaways for communications professionals:

You can have a serious message but still be playful

Just because we are grownups working on serious issues and with serious messages and serious objectives, that doesn’t mean we should forget that first and foremost, we are human – and humans like to play!

These two fantastic examples were shared in one of the first sessions as creative ways to use online and social media trends to drive serious awareness campaigns:

It’s not a separate digital world – it’s just the world

As Dan Donahoo pointed out in his presentation, our kids are growing up without knowing that there was ever any distinction between the world and the digital world.

The parental default seems to be concern over a child’s screen time, however, Dan encouraged us to remember that, in the most part, they are not engaging with machines but people. As he so eloquently said, “our emotions aren’t separate from our mobile devices – we carry our view of the world in our pocket – our photos, messages from loved ones – our emotions are out here and in there – it is one world”.

As communicators we often talk about designing a ‘Digital strategy’ as though it is somehow separate to the overall engagement campaign. How can our perspective and policies more accurately reflect the world as it is today?

The world now works on a 24/7news cycle…but we don’t

Along with local expert panelists including Sean Parnell and Chris Wagner, Multimedia Innovations Editor Neal Mann highlighted the massive influencing gap if you are still operating your communications from a 9am-5pm perspective. This means you are missing 12-15 hours of conversation online. That is, 12-15 hours of missed opportunities to engage your key influencers every day.

Panelist Jenny Muir added to this, the issue of communications professional burnout. The reality is that even if we are contracted to work 9-5, communications professionals are often going online and working after hours in order to keep up to date or ensure stakeholder communication continuity. How can we be present when and where our key stakeholders are spending time if that now means being ‘on’ 24 hours a day, 7 days a week?

And, beyond that, who are you engaging with online? As discussed at DiG Festival, journalists are no longer the gatekeepers of information. It could be that some of your twitter followers have significantly more influence as a result of their personal brand than shopping a press release to traditional media. Do you know who’s following your organisation?

I don’t have the answers as to how we should respond to these observations, and these three things are just scraping the surface in terms of the number of presentations and discussions that made me stop and think at DiG Festival.

Technology can inspire creativity but only if we are prepared to be agile in adapting to the world we live in – not the digital world, THE world.

Thanks DiG Festival!

P.S. Oh. I mentioned whips in the title, didn’t I? Here is a clue as to why: one of the keynote speeches was called “How not to be a douche in the digital age” presented by the inspirational Kali Williams. Happy googling!

DiG Festival presentations

Hunter Institute of Mental Health has kindly made a number of the presentations available via Slide Share.

Twitter conversation

You can also catch up on the Twitter conversation using #DiGFestival

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