Technical knowledge or Technological Mindset?
The Beating Pulse of Technology in Communications
Blog by Jess McMurray and Fiorenza Mella
What matters more in technological fields: technical knowledge or a technological mindset?
At Xpresso Communications, we position ourselves as integrated PR and Marketing communications experts who work ‘in the field of technology’. But what does that actually mean? Technology is a broad term indeed. At the risk of taking the ‘high schoolers padding out their word count’ approach to addressing the question, we can begin by looking at definitions to try and grasp more precisely what we mean when we talk about working in ‘tech-related’ industries.
Trusty Wikipedia tells us that the word technology has its etymology grounded in the Greek τέχνη, techne, “art, skill, cunning of hand”; and -λογία, -logia. This gives a translation that essentially amounts to ‘the science of craft’. It continues on to indicate that the term technology refers to the sum of techniques, skills, methods, and processes used to pursue an objective – often scientific. Importantly though, there isn’t necessarily a need for there to be a mechanical or computer-based elements at the heart of that system.
Indeed, in “Technological Concepts and Mathematical Models in the Evolution of Modern Engineering Systems..”, Mario Lucertini essentially asserts that technology is simply a word for systems (often machines – though not always) that take an input, change it according to the system’s use, and then produce an outcome.
That’s it then. That’s the essence of technology. Input, process, and output. Logical progression.
So why does the definition of ‘technology’ matter?
Where once those inputs and outputs may have been physical and tangible, now increasingly those three stages will pertain to information or data. That tends to be the area of technology where Xpresso Communications finds itself.
The reason we’ve been contemplating the meaning of technology is because we’re currently undergoing a period of growth, and the markets that we represent are diversifying. Our specialism (including media relations) has typically been in the Broadcast and PROAV, Satellite and Broadband markets, but over the last few years we’ve expanded to cover IT, retail and medical technologies.
But because we think it’s important to be constantly self-analytical, whenever we branch out into new markets, we stop to check ourselves. Is there a risk we’re spreading ourselves too thin? How much does intricate knowledge of a particular technological sub-field matter, and if it does matter, do we have the means to acquire the requisite knowledge to serve that client effectively? Are media relations driving the same coverage in other technology-based markets?
These are complicated strategic questions, but they’re vital to our integrity, transparency and strategy as a communications firm.
Which leads us back to the definition of technology. We believe that technology is a mindset, rather than a thing. If you hold the right mindset, the ability to get to grips with the specific technical details within any given technology sub-field is a relatively straightforward process. It is knowledge of the importance of technological mindset (and our possession of it) that means we’re not just comfortable about representing new clients in new areas, but positively confident. Because we know we understand the nature of technology, and that means acquiring the technical knowledge is a mere formality that follows quickly.
We’re also aware that whilst previously the strength of a PR and communications firm might have stood on the basis of the contacts it held with editors, journalists and publishers in a particular sub-field, increasingly, that isn’t true. Indeed, a truly good communications firm these days needs to be seeking to diversify away from these traditional and rigid channels to find better, more effective and more efficient ways to ‘get the message out’. Undoubtedly, Xpresso has an incredibly strong media contact base in the field of Broadcast and ProAV as a result of 25+ years of specialism there, but we also have a much more diversified and agile strategy for propagating messages than many of our competitors – making us well positioned to move into new sub-markets.
A practical example
On paper, what could the medical field and the field of broadcast have in common? If a medical technician applied for a job as chief broadcast technician for CNN, they’d be laughed out of the building, right?
Well, maybe. But perhaps that would be a shortsighted attitude from the hiring team.
Because technology means being able to take inputs, apply process, and gain meaningful outputs. The monitoring of a broadcast signal and the ability to generate usable knowledge from that is a perfect equivalent to the monitoring of human biometrics for the purpose of discovery and action. We even use the same key term across both fields, namely, diagnostics.
So this leads us to believe that if you can think in a ‘technological’ mindset – one of order, logic and process, then it really doesn’t matter what you’re applying that type of thinking to. The details are mere icing. Blood flow or data packets, making meaningful information from metrics – making them comprehensible, understandable and usable – is all that matters. The pulse of the body or the sync pulse in a broadcast network – it doesn’t matter about the details, but about the function, purpose and benefit. Finally the leitmotif is data visualization: it’s how you grasp the process and describe it through visual outcome.
What’s the up-shot of understanding ‘technology’ in a broad sense?
We think it’s key to understand that sub-sector specific knowledge is not the be-all and end-all of a business – nor its communication strategy. Engineers can get very excited when talking technical detail (and rightly so, when a lot of what they do is both groundbreaking and fascinating). But there can be a risk when it’s not just the engineers that get bogged down in these details, but the business as a whole. If the communications strategy focuses too much on technical detail, and not enough on technological process and benefit, both message and sales will be lost.
As a result, at Xpresso Communications – we believe it’s key to understand the nature of technology. Our passion for technology inspires our outstanding content creators in developing knowledge of other sub-sectors and the associated technical detail – so we always have an expert for the job. We believe strongly that by holding the right mindset, and an underpinning understanding of technology as a broad concept, there is an automatic advantage granted when approaching different fields and seeking to gain sector-specific knowledge. The process flow naturally. This open attitude ensures that a good communications firm can actually work more effectively for clients across many different technological fields.
Not just us
It’s not just the field of communications that is recognizing the benefit of ‘technological thinking’ over ‘technical knowledge’. Increasingly, technicians that were once niche in one field are being recruited into a completely new field: many IT specialists for example are flooding into broadcast, bringing not only their technical knowledge, but their ability to apply technological thinking in a wider sense. They come with open eyes – not bogged down with how things are traditionally done, but fully armed with the process of thought needed to tackle a problem.
It’s exactly that philosophy that we apply. We hold knowledge of the process needed for a technological firm to communicate effectively, regardless of its precise area of operation. How does that technology create benefit? How can we communicate the outputs it gives – and the usefulness of those outputs? Communications activities for tech firms can often be so isolationist – focused on the particulars of their technology and their sub-field – that they forget that ultimately people need to talk to each other in human terms; about benefit, usability and purpose.
That’s what we do – be it blood flow, bit rate or bug identification – we talk benefit.