Digital is Great – But It’s Not What Connects Us.

Digital is Great – But It’s Not What Connects Us.

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine and I were talking about how I use technology to keep in touch with my friends and family abroad, and whether I feel it is effective.


Following that conversation, I was talking to a prospective client about the PR and marketing channels he might use to help build his new business. Being an entrepreneur, he was most concerned about converting traffic into sales. We also discussed digital, technology and even artificial intelligence at length.


One conversation may have been considered “personal” and the other “business.” I use quotes because I want to emphasize the point that business is personal. And communication is always personal. That’s how our brains are hard-wired (but we’ll explore that in a different post).


My point to both of them was the same: Yes, technology effectively connects us to others and that can be a positive or a negative, depending not just how you’re connecting, but more importantly, what you’re saying.


On the positive, technology has tremendous – and nearly immediate — power to connect, engage and inform us, and is also making amazing strides at solving some of the world’s pressing societal needs. The work IBM is doing using technology to help control China’s pollution crisis is a perfect example of the latter.


Conversely, technology – and particularly social media — has the ability to create a great illusion, which has also proven to be a negative for ourselves and our businesses. This is not just limited to the somewhat suspect, happy pictures and glam selfies we see streaming through our daily news feeds that in reality has been found to cause depression or a great, digital campaign that flopped and barely returned a dime on the dollar.   It includes more serious issues such as the use of real pictures with fake captions, data, charts and quotes, creating fake data and intelligence. Initially, these tricks may seem rather harmless. But often, such tactics have ‘duped’ people to such extents, they have created and furthered detrimental divides in race, religion, politics, cultures and business. This is often purposeful. And, it is dangerous.


I’m a great believer in the use of digital and technology, harnessing its power for good. From a marketing perspective, there are so many areas of technology that leaders need to be aware – the digitization of decisions, automation of jobs, artificial intelligence, all moving at warp speed, changing the landscape of business.


We get ourselves in trouble, however, when we start to put the digital ahead of our people.  When we let a sexy, new illusion supercede an authentic relationship and forget we shouldn’t be talking about “things” we need to be talking to people.


Because it’s people we need (internal or external) to make greatness happen.  It’s the people we need to create. To innovate. To collaborate. To inspire.  To connect. Because it’s the people we need to buy, vote, give, act, engage. And fact is: they have very specific needs too.


“The real danger is not that computers will begin to think like men, but that men will begin to think like computers.” Sydney J. Harris


The fact of the matter is computers and artificial intelligence can do faster. They do more. They can automate. They can create. They will take over jobs in the next 10 years that are now being done by humans.  But they will never, ever, be able to connect, to inspire, to lead, to emote, to feel, in the way that humans can.  Only humans are hard-wired that way.


So my counsel to the companies I counsel is this:  stay ahead in the digital game.  You need to do so.  Connect, communicate with your people (stakeholders).  That’s who matters most.  There are very clear – scientifically-proven ways to do it, to meet their needs (I’ll share more in my next post).


But it’s the people connections that are most important. The people connections that make the difference. The people connections that cause action.  The people connections and messages those people need to hear, know and be reassured of that drive growth and result in the biggest return on your investments.


Those connections that we – and our businesses – need to thrive.


Patty McDonough Kennedy is an entrepreneur, consultant and speaker. She has lived and worked in a number of countries and helps organizations better connect with key stakeholders to improve awareness, engagement and sales.  She is a TEDx speaker and profiled in Entrepreneur, Forbes and The Wall Street Journal. Contact her at