Anjali Ramachandran works at digital strategy network Made by Many in London, having previously worked at Nike, in social research and film festival marketing. She enjoys disrupting the status quo and is a strong believer in technology and the web as agents of innovation and social change. She blogs at One Size Fits One and Made by Many .
What makes an effective communicator?
An effective communicator shows passion – a very high level of interest and involvement – in the things they find interesting. They rarely let any little thing escape their notice, and they constantly file things away in their memory to pull out on a rainy day. They are very open to sharing their thoughts and ideas with people, and keep refining them based on feedback from others. Most of them are also social and comfortable talking to people of all kinds. All this probably sounds pretty straight-forward but it isn’t as easy as you think!
In your opinion who are the top 3 most influential communicators of today ?
Hmm – tough one.
danah boyd – I saw her speak this year at SXSW Interactive in Austin and she was extremely articulate and confident. She’s a researcher by profession at Microsoft Research and the Berkman Center at Harvard, with a Ph.D behind her. You can make out when she speaks that she really believes in her work: youth culture and social networks, and how they affect how a generation of young people live. She also blogs quite often, puts up entire transcripts of her talks and research, and I think that accessibility – whether via Twitter or comments on her blog – is also important for someone who wants to communicate her own ideas.
Clay Shirky – it may be a coincidence that Clay Shirky is also on my list, as he is yet another academic, this time at NYU. The Columbia Journalism Review did an interview with him a couple of years ago – it’s probably one of the best interviews I’ve read in some time. Over the last few years, he’s made a name for himself in the digital social space – I particularly like the examples he cites in his talks. He’s also the author of two books: Here Comes Everybody and Cognitive Surplus, , which give him plenty of food for his talks.
Barack Obama – I don’t think anyone needs to explain why, but I’m definitely disappointed, as are countless others, in the lack of follow-up to his campaign after he achieved his phenomenal success in the Presidential race. My Barack Obama was a proper innovation in politics. Still, you can’t begrudge him his success: easily the best digital-powered political campaign any of us have seen so far, and it’s already been over a year and a half since his victory.
Who are the top 3 most influential communicators of yesterday ?
Gandhi, because he led an entire country to independence, and he didn’t need to shout. I think not enough people today realise the impact techniques like civil disobedience and non-violence had at that time. Try getting anyone today to achieve the kind of impact he did with hardly any tools at his disposal.
Abraham Lincoln, because you hear so many stories about how he was excellent at communicating to large audiences. Patience and attention to detail are a couple of things I associate with him, from what I’ve read.
Martin Luther King – four words: “I have a dream”. I remember reading the transcript of his talk in school and being completely blown away by the force of his words. Today, thanks to YouTube, we can actually see and hear it at the click of a button.
How would each of these communicators have used social media if they were alive today ?
This is a very interesting question!
I think Gandhi would have definitely used Facebook and possibly Orkut, to get his message across (the latter recently trumped the former as the most popular social network in India). He’d probably set up a Facebook Fan Page to communicate directly with his audience (there’d be plenty of unofficial fan groups as well, but never mind that!). I think more than social networking online though, he’d go mobile – access to mobile phones is much more widespread than access to the internet in India, so SMS messaging would be a powerful tool for him.
As for Dr. Martin Luther King, it would have to be Twitter, wouldn’t it!
What are some of the similarities and differences between the powerful communicators of the past and the powerful communicators of today ?
They’re all excellent orators, and they’re all very knowledgeable in their field of expertise. They also strike a chord with people, and in the case of today’s politicians, like Obama, fans mobilise more money and resources than the candidates could have gathered without them. Obama’s victory especially was largely due to that election being America’s first real digital election, and it changed the perception of the country around the globe.