April 22, 2020

Connection Re-Imagined: Design Principles for Digital Engagement

Guryan Tighe

“The farthest distance in life is between how it is and how you thought it was going to be.” — Wanderer 

There are a lot of names being used for what we’re going through. The Big Pause. The Distance. The Lockdown. No matter what you call it, it represents the complete upending of our lives. And in our personal and business worlds, we find ourselves stumbling forward as best we can. We’re in a time of great overwhelm. We used to go outside to get our heart rate up — now we go outside to get our heart rate down.

I live in San Francisco, where a couple of weeks ago people began avoiding each other to such a degree, it was as if they believed the virus could be transmitted through eye contact. That’s how powerful fear is. It hit me hard. The desire to hole up in my apartment and tune out the world was almost overwhelming. Almost. Like many of you, I also felt a pull in the opposite direction. What’s always been most important to me is community and connection.

As we shelter in place, many of us are working from home. Or trying to. This used to be a treat that felt like freedom. My colleagues andI at Rob Roy Consulting would work remotely on a regular basis. But we always looked forward to seeing each other in person several times a week. The balance was energizing. Now, the balance is gone. Working from home elicits other sensations. Feeing cut off. Going it alone. Never ending.

If you’re waiting for things to get back to normal, don’t. We’re not going back to anything. The only place we’re going is forward into the unknown. Each new week is a new reality, an opportunity to embrace connectivity, and contribute to where we are going. This is the time to take ownership of new opportunities. The first step is the hardest. We know. We’ve taken it.

The nature of Rob Roy Consulting’s work is highly interactive and personal. Narrative creation. Executive coaching. Persuasive storytelling. In the past, whenever given the choice between working with clients in person vs. “phoning it in”, we’d consistently choose being in person.

But times have changed. We’re now on a mission to prevent physical distancing from turning into social alienation. It’s time to bolster relationships, find our resilience, and pave the way to recovery. It’s time to embrace connection in new ways—with customers, partners and teammates. We want to see people engage instead of retreating into rabbit holes. That’s why RobRoy has created digital options for all our services, empowering teams with the highly personalized and interactive experiences they need. 

As Sir Isaac Newton aptly brought to awareness, we can’t go back in time.

Rob Roy’s motto is “conviction convinces.” We believe this matters now more than ever. This is the time to get back to persuasive storytelling.This is the time to be in conversation with your community, and to tell them how you are taking ownership of your future. To do that, you have to be ready to speak with your customers in from a place of authenticity and vulnerability.However eager we all are to get back a semblance of our old lives, pretending like this hasn’t happened is not going to cut it. Gaslighting our way back to some fictional pre-pandemic norm doesn’t help anybody. 

So don’t just try to pick up where you left off. Take advantage of this universal reset to choose what kind of marketing future you want to create. Start a wholly new communication that will resonate and connect in new ways. Show them how your convictions guide you.

Because now is the time to engage in interactive experiences with your customers, partners and employees. It’s no longer just about staying connected with your customers — it’s helping them connect with each other and your shared purpose. And by engaging digitally, you just may find new ways to connect on a deeper level than you previously thought possible.

We want to share some digital experience design principles we’ve seen work particularly well over the past several weeks.

These have been used to guide the creation of new digital campaigns, make decisions about what not to do, and build a rationale for investing in connection now, rather than waiting for that sense of certainty that may or may not ever re-emerge. We hope these principles help you as you explore your own path to creating truly immersive and interactive digital experiences with your customers, partners and employees:

  1. Choice.
    Make it an opt-in experience: Whether your audience is a customer or a colleague, make sure the experience feels like something they’ve chosen to do, not something they’re being pushed into. Give them choices as to when and where they engage. Be sure to follow data privacy protocols. And offer pre-recorded options for people juggling insane schedules.
  2. Co-Creation.
    Go beyond customization or personalization, and embrace a collaborative approach to co-creating virtual experiences based on direct feedback from your audience.Conduct surveys. Analyze responses by persona and audience segment. Share the results with your audience, and specifically call out which aspects of your virtual experience their feedback inspired.
  3. Connection.
    Even before the pandemic, one of the best reasons to attend events was to connect with peers who understand the pressures of your shared profession. Whether it’s sharing best practices or just commiserating, include peer-to-peer networking in your digital experience. And foster meaningful discussions and drive engagement with strategically targeted questions.
  4. Cohesion.
    Don’t just crank out a ton of digital content. Engage in persuasive storytelling that spans multiple pieces of content. Create an umbrella narrative as if you were crafting a storyline for a miniseries, and connect your content with a storytelling framework. And avoid fragmenting your experience across multiple platforms. Make it intuitive, seamless and stress-proof.
  5. Compassion.
    These are crazy times. Be compassionate with your teams, your customers and yourselves. Set humane deadlines, and leave room in your planning process for do-overs and absences. Do your best to create a professional experience, but be good-humored about interruptions from kids, pets and delivery people. And don’t overload your audience. Prioritize experiences that help them the most, right now.
  6. Curiosity.
    In a time where many are racing to formulate the answer, consider where you get curious.What questions are worth considering as we begin to create from the opportunities our current circumstance puts forth? Coalescing around curiosity enables new perspectives and win-win scenarios.
  7. Conviction.
    Start with a clear sense of purpose. Whom are you trying to engage? What value are you providing with your experience? What do you want them to think, feel, and do? Most importantly, be clear about why you think this is worth their time … and yours. Talk about something that you believe in, that you believe is useful. Avoid fear-based selling, hyperbole or over-simplification. Be real. Be yourself. And be inservice of your purpose.

Rob Roy is encouraging everyone to keep moving.

More specifically, we call on you to CHOOSE to keep moving. Those who make a conscious decision to find their way will be in a stronger position as the future unfolds. Those who rely on others to make their choices might not see that future. It’s time to choose forward momentum.

When you’re ready, Rob Roy is here to help you move forward. Please download this outline of our capabilities to see how we might partner. We have the opportunity to build a bridge to where we’re headed, in connection, together.

Guryan Tighe is a Senior Associate at Rob Roy Consulting, an accomplished speaking coach, and the Founder and Fear Technician at Fourage. She is second from the right in the above photo, on a Socially-Distant-Observant hike with her family.
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