Fifty individuals nationwide – including four from the D.C. area – who are thinking differently and leading communicators into the PRTech future were honored on Sept. 30 in NYC. These honorees embraced data in their strategic business decisions and sought to bring together the forces of PR, marketing, technology and media. The four D.C.-area communicators – Shonali Burke, president & CEO, Shonali Burke Consulting; Shashi Bellamkonda, CMO, Surefire Social; Chris Foster, senior vice president, Booz Allen Hamilton; and Geoff Livingston, president and founder, Tenacity5 – were recognized at the PRTech Awards 2015.
Capitol Communicator asked Shashi Bellamkonda for his insights on a number of subjects and the Q&A follows:
Shashi, how has communications changed in recent years?
Human-to-human communications have always had tools as intermediaries. The predecessor to the telegraph in the 18th century was the semaphore which was a relay network and dependent on interpretation by humans. Today, the tools are different but at a fundamental level still dependent on relay by humans. The telegraph traveled 40 miles instantaneously between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., in 1844 and today tools like Twitter, the internet and your mobile device lets a message travel faster instantaneously across the world. Despite the tech advances all of us have to remember that tools don’t create the communications, we humans do. The fundamental principles of communication – accuracy, ethics and openness – are still the same as they were in 1844. We should remember that everyday.
What skills will it take to be a success in coming years?
The best communication professionals will take their skills and adapt to new technology and tools to help them communicate. It does not have to mean that they have to be adept at every tool that is invented. Every communication professional should know enough to see how the tools apply to business objectives. Imagine that there was skepticism that people would use a telephone instead of the telegraph.
It almost seems like technology changes faster than a semester in college. So paraphrasing George Bernard Shaw, “You learn throughout your life, except for a short break in school”. Luckily the internet has a wealth of knowledge – online resources, of course like the Capitol Communicator, blogs and conferences.
What lessons have you learned that you want to share with others?
My life’s philosophy is that knowledge not shared is lost forever. I am so glad that the world wide web has made knowledge shareable and crowd-sourced collaboration easier. My network of friends, colleagues and other professionals has been an integral part of my success, underlining the fact that the path to success is aided by helping hands. New technology may easily be interpreted skeptically, but to succeed always evaluate change fairly, independently and practically.
Who are your role models?
I am big fan of Bill Marriott’s blog and the strategy and plan for Mr. Marriott’s blog was so well executed. Along with the very interesting and personal content, the ‘Find a hotel” button drives revenue for Marriott and last I heard about 5M in revenue was attributed to the blog. Here, Mr. Marriott records his thoughts on audio and they are transcripted and published as a blog. Kudos to Mr. Marriott and his communications team for a great example.
If you didn’t go into communications, what field would you have gone into?
My earlier career was in the hospitality business and I love people so I would have chosen another people-facing profession. My hospitality experience gave me the skills to think like the customer, importance of designing a good user experience which help me even today.
What are the things you like to do when not at work?
I love reading books, travelling to see history and culture, and one day I will write a book
Anything else we should know about you?
In life there are opportunities that come in unexpected ways and luck, karma and hard work will help you succeed.
(Stay current with items of interest to communicators at Capitol Communicator.)