How are careers in communication developing as technology emerges? I remember about 17 years ago when I began learning how to edit video and create photo montages. It was not an inexpensive venture to take on as an independent contractor, the software was expensive at the time as was the hardware and the backup drives. There was a concern in the industry that as the software became more user-friendly and more accessible to the public, (eg iMovie being standard in every Mac sold), that the need to hire someone to create professional montages would dissipate.
Those concerns weren’t unfounded altogether, many did begin to create their own wedding, birthday and graduation montages. And the phone did ring a bit less for those who were montage creators. But the market did not fade altogether and in fact, it still exists today. Why?
The answer is simple. There is always an initial attraction to using new software with the alluring potential to save the user money on previously paid for tasks. Accounting software is a perfect example. Quicken and Quick Books make business accounting seem like a do-it-yourself proposition, but, after a time, too many tasks on one person’s plate pile up and the need for help arises. In the accounting example, the time involved in completing the task is more than just inputting checks. The user must also put time into updating the software, learn relevant tax laws, master business banking principles, and properly categorize expenses. The result is that even with all the do-it-yourself software, accountants still have a prominent role in businesses.
You may be thinking that in the accounting example there are laws involved and that those don’t apply to fields in communication. To that, I would say two things. Take a media law course and read the news. There are laws that govern how media can be used and people do sue each other over violations of these laws. In a current news story, we read about a guest at a wedding suing the groom because of a concussion she suffered at the hands of his drone. The groom has stated that while it was his drone, someone else was flying it to capture footage of his big day when it hit his guests. According to the report, there seems to be some question about whether or not permission was ever given to fly the drone at the wedding. “Women struck by drone at wedding sues groom.”  In this case, it appears the groom would have been better off being the guest of honor at his wedding and hiring a professional drone pilot, who would have known to obtain proper permission and to follow proper safety guidelines.
Aside from using drones to capture personal memories, they are also a perfect example of how new forms of digital media tend to make every person who owns it think that they can also be a journalist. But guess what? There will be laws that govern the resulting media. In the case of drones, the minute someone sells or profits from their footage, if they have not first obtained a commercial exemption permit from the FAA, they will be in violation of federal law and subject to a ten-thousand dollar ($10,000.00) fine.
In a recent conversation with my real estate agent, I asked her how she navigates the drone laws, as I know she likes to use the aerial footage to showcase her listings. She told me that she hires a professional to capture her properties and does not want to deal with having to stay current on the FAA laws of capturing the content or learning how to fly a drone. Guess what else? Even though she happens to be a great photographer, there are inexpensive DSLR cameras in abundance on the market, and Photoshop is inexpensive to lease monthly through Creative Cloud making editing simple, she hires a photographer. As a real estate agent, she has to focus on selling houses and spending her time with clients, not staying up to date on editing tricks and managing large volumes of photos.
Furthermore, in the fields of social media, public relations, and digital media, there is and will always be a difference between someone who can use the software to complete a task and someone who can master the software to produce praise-worthy results.
My iPhone tells me the weather, but I still watch the meteorologist report on the morning news. My iPhone sends me alerts of news updates, but I still turn on the television to see the story covered live and in real time and hear a journalist’s explanation of the facts. I have shot many an event as a journalist and I own more than one camera, but I recently hired a skilled professional photographer, Brittany Cannon, to shoot my child’s senior portraits. There is no possible way I could have produced the same results or even convinced my child to sit on top of a wall in public while I took a hundred photos of her. (See photo above.)
What does all of this mean for future careers in communication as tech emerges? It means that people working in digital media need to follow the innovation. Attending conferences like SXSW are important for journalists to stay a viable employable candidate in their field. Subscribing to tech blogs, following industry leaders, and signing up for innovation courses to stay current on communication skills is also important. Any place you can find innovation you will find new careers. Staying open to the innovation and learning about it is the key. Future careers will evolve out of technology innovations, not be replaced by them.
I have a client, The Marshall Group, that just purchased via my recommendation the Nikon KeyMission 360 to shoot a construction site brewery build from the ground up. I suggested he hang the camera from the ceiling. He recently did and it filmed the pouring of concrete at the brewery. Yes, the camera captured footage remotely via an iPad without my involvement, but that camera won’t replace the brewery’s need for assistance, it will increase it. The brewery now needs someone to edit and post the content that the camera produces. I spent my weekend optimizing this content while my client moves on to the next stages in the construction of building a brewery.
What technology innovations today will create a demand for experts with communications skills?
1. Drone Pilots. As I mentioned above, drones will require experts who know how to safely operate them, are properly licensed to do so, and are aware of “unintentional capture laws.”
2. Photographers. The more readily available advanced cameras become, the more in need of experts in the field there will be to teach others how to use the features of the cameras. In addition, experts will be required to manage the massive amount of data that shooting such high-res photos requires. Finally, the flooding of the market with photos courtesy of cameras installed on every phone makes the need to stand out with high-quality content ever more important. For example, Instagram did not put photographers out of business. Instead, it created a career for Social Media Marketing.
3. Virtual Reality and 360 Video Experts. This highly technical field is exciting because anyone can download software like Unity and create a virtual reality gaming environment. However, as more learn to do it, the competition to have high-quality games, virtual reality videos and 360 video that is produced at a high level will increase. Brands will not settle for just being in the 360 game, they will want their 360 video to be buzzworthy and the most downloaded. That kind of viral content will require innovative minds and a team of digital communications experts to produce.
1. AP. December 11, 2016. WKBW Buffalo ABC 7. “Women struck by drone at wedding sues groom.” Retrieved via http://www.wkbw.com/news/national/women-struck-by-drone-at-wedding-sues-groom.