Wired communication Featured

7:00pm EDT February 28, 2007

The key to accomplishing any business objective is effective communication. From selling a product to implementing a program, you must clearly share information in a way that will connect with your audience and achieve your intended purpose. With the technological revolution, businesses increasingly rely on digital or e-communication.

“Digital communication can be broadly defined as communication using digital media,” says Dr. William Hochstettler III, chair of the Digital Communication program at Franklin University. “This primarily refers to using the World Wide Web, but can also mean using compact discs, DVDs and emerging technologies to deliver content to mobile devices such as cell phones and iPods.”

Smart Business spoke with Hochstettler about the opportunities in e-communication and the education required to excel in this growing field.

What are the most important channels for e-communication?

Clearly, the World Wide Web is the biggest and most prominent channel, but visual materials on DVD and audio materials on CDs still have a place in direct marketing campaigns.

Effectively communicating through these channels requires skills beyond those required for traditional print or television media. New personal technologies that increase direct marketing opportunities, such as cell phones and iPods, provide other technological challenges. For example, the small screen size changes how people view messages, and marketers have to be sensitive to the fact that people often have to pay for receiving messages.

What job opportunities exist within this growing field?

Many new positions have sprung up in this field, but two particularly important areas are Web development and e-marketing. In a small to mid-size organization, people within this specialty area must be capable of managing an organization’s use of digital media. Responsibilities generally include the marketing, design, creation and deployment of communication strategies using digital media. Someone with a digital communication education would be prepared to oversee the contracting of the marketing to determine target audiences, the design of appropriate materials, the implementation of the design, and finally the evaluation of the success of the entire Web site project or Web-based campaign.

In a large organization, people with an e-communication background could specialize in either e-marketing or Web programming. For example, a person with an e-marketing background could plan the whole Web-based campaign for a company and track its results. A graduate with a concentration in Web development skills could create a company’s entire Web site.

Why is it important to receive formal training in e-communication?

Anyone who has surfed the Web has seen poorly designed Web sites. This is why people need training in marketing, design and implementation. This education helps professionals understand how to create a Web site that targets the right market; has an effective, pleasing design; and motivates customers to buy the marketed product or service.

What technical knowledge helps people succeed in the field of e-communication?

To implement efficient and effective Web sites, for example, people need to keep up with the hot skills and new products and languages in technology. Web technology evolves even faster than other areas of technology. Over the past five years, at least three different approaches to implementing interactivity on Web sites have seen the pinnacle of popularity and just as rapidly declined in favor of a new, hotter technology.

Another key point is that the most important type of knowledge is the ability to select and use the appropriate technology to get a quality job done quickly and cost-effectively. Given the fast pace of getting new products and services to market, this is extremely important with Web-based digital communication pieces. The Web has the unique quality of being instantly available to millions of people once it is deployed.

How does marketing training assist with effective e-communication?

Numerous Web sites constructed using good design techniques and the latest technology still don’t reach the intended market. When businesses focus on e-commerce on the Web, it should be all about marketing.

One of the early researchers in Web usability, Jakob Nielsen, makes the point repeatedly that Web site visitors are always one click away from going to a competitor’s site. This can be a hard lesson for traditional businesses with primarily a ‘bricks and mortar’ mentality. They are used to viewing customers as ‘captives’ in their store who merely need to be shown and sold the right product or service. Customer service representative skills have to be built into e-communication pieces, which begin with knowing and addressing the appropriate market.

DR. WILLIAM HOCHSTETTLER III is program chair, Digital Communication, at Franklin University. Reach him at (614) 947-6118 or hochstew@franklin.edu.