Back in November, I took a brief look at how we can better value moments to make us better communicators. This week, after watching Super Bowl 50 with a couple dozen friends in my apartment, and viewing the first two episodes of FX’s "The People v. O.J. Simpson," I found myself thinking about shared experiences, and how they have evolved over time.
If you haven’t already seen the miniseries, a major part of the second episode covers the "White Bronco chase," during which Simpson and his friend Al Cowlings traversed the highways of Los Angeles with police in tow. I was living in New Jersey at the time, and I remember this situation vividly. It was the fifth game of the NBA Finals (the Houston Rockets were playing the New York Knicks), and coverage of the chase permeated television.
Not having a cellphone at the time, nor the social apps of today’s Internet, I remember chatting with a couple friends via landline about the chase, and it being the talk of the watercooler the next day. As the trial progressed, I recall a scene reminiscent of one from the FX series’ second episode, where the staff in the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office was glued to the television. In my case, I was working in a large law firm while attending college at night, and everyone was more than "tuned in" to what the trial was all about. It was intense, to say the least. At that time, staying connected still meant waiting minutes on dial-up Internet, so it was a bit less of a live shared experience, unless you were hanging out in Internet Relay Chat (IRC) spaces or other chatrooms.
Fast forward a decade or so, and I was live-blogging Super Bowl television commercials for Weblogs, Inc.’s AdJab blog (since shuttered by AOL), along with some friends. In those ten years, our connectivity dramatically increased, and mobile devices became mainstream. The ability to interact with literally thousands (if not more) of people initially carried a bit of lag, but was still fairly quick for the time. It was around that time I started working with companies of all shapes and sizes to better harness what was going on in the digital space. True, it was far less about the shared experience, at least the concurrent one, but that concept still arose occasionally.
Another decade later, and the shared experience is a fair portion of what communicators are focused on. From earnings announcements to product unboxings to movie premieres and just about everything in between, shared experience is what we’re all gunning for. People want to see what others are thinking, and want others to know their thoughts and feelings. Stock market analysts and TV reviewers alike are leveraging the tools of the trade to reach their audiences, and those audiences are telling those influencers, through their choices, where, when, and how they want to be communicated with.
Push and pull reign supreme in the race to reach and be reached. It’s critical to be aware of this. Today’s Snapchat is tomorrow’s evening newscast. All of these channels and spaces have value, and their survival – or failure – depends on their own adaptation relative to the shared experiences we all chase, actively and passively. Likewise, recognizing that some sort of shared experiences are at the core of many of our communications goals – whether we’re delivering new HR policies or unveiling a new car – can future-proof us as the velocity of new channels and challenges increases.