Where do we go from here?

As strategic communication specialists we recognize that the land we stand on today may not appear familiar to us a week in the future, much less a year or five or more down the road. The digital landscape, much like the real landscape of a yard, requires constant feeding, watering, and cutting to make it grow.

Additionally, if you do not feed it, water it, or cut it…it’ll grow weeds and and end up looking horrible next season. I have always had an interest in the way individuals consume, and digest, information. Whether this was as a meteorologist producing and “selling” my forecast to a downrange forecaster who doubted my prognosis, or as a flight instructor providing instrument navigation instruction to a newly minted private pilot still trying to wrap their heads around the awesome privilege they just accomplished, or now as a communication strategist helping a client accomplish their professional or political goals, the way we as individuals interact and communicate with each other plays such a vital role in the evolution of our society.

Taking part in Troy’s strategic communication program has brought me so much enjoyment that I am not ashamed to say I will miss it. The program was brought together by an academic leadership team that fought for years to convince various academic bodies that such a program was necessary.

The communication landscape evolved right before their eyes and the classical emphasis on mass communication was no longer the most appropriate academic food for the next generation of communication professionals. Troy’s Hall School of Journalism’s leaders recognized that they had an opportunity to set the tone for future academic programs across the nation. A tone that spotlighted the theoretical foundations of utilizing emerging technology in a way that brought about new ways of crafting messages, engaging with targeted and broad audiences, building communities.

Some may consider these things obvious due to their life experiences of simply being surrounded by these tools for the better part of the past decade and a half. Unfortunately though, there is nothing obvious or common-sense of the way these tools can be harnessed to accomplished organizational goals. There is nothing common-sense about building an audience of loyal followers who are just as equally engaged towards accomplishing the organization’s goals. There is nothing obvious about the way social media has drastically changed the way in which organizations manage crises and protect reputations.

While my time with the academic program at Troy is complete (I graduated this past Friday and just submitted my final assignments this morning), as a communication strategist I realize that if I do not want to become a dying dinosaur within the realm of communicating, I will have to remain engaged and active within the science. This is the food that will improve my digital landscape, growing a strong root system that allows for stability as a communication strategist. I cannot however, do it alone. Others from various specialties will certainly help me as the future presents itself. The relationships you make with individuals from different walks of life, different professional goals, different hobbies, provide an improved sense of clarity for the world around us. This is the water, the outside sources and influences, that will help keep my focus on improving processes and building professional relationships that prepare me to harness opportunities as they come by. Outside of remaining activity within the science and building professional relationships with peers inside and outside the industry, one also needs to know when it is time to discard the things that are no longer working or effective. When your lawn gets too tall and it starts to look unkempt, you know what time it is – get that lawnmower ready and cut it! Discard the techniques that are no longer effective for you. A constant evaluation of the process you are using as a professional communicator must occur. By staying engaged within the craft, using resources that are available to you, you’ll recognize if the process you have built up for yourself are still working, but more importantly – if they are no longer working.

When something isn’t effective anymore, it is time to get rid of it. Do not be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and learn a new skill or process.

Feed, water, and cut your digital landscape. Feed, water, and cut your creative mind. Feed, water, and cut your professional desires.

For anyone interested in pursuing a graduate degree in strategic communication, I have to recommend Troy University (www.troy.edu). I have greatly enjoyed my time over the past year and change and I know that it will pay off for me many times over. Looking into the future, my academic career is not over. I am making my pivot towards accomplishing my first formal education within the aviation industry, within the specific environment of aviation safety. I am looking forward to starting at the Florida Institute of Technology (www.fit.edu) in August.

Until next time! Take care and be safe!

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