The 2008 elections in the United States of America may have introduced a new tool to politics. Former President Obama is said to have had the most successful online political campaign ever, which has changed the significance of digital technology in political campaigns around the world. In the 2016 Presidential elections, the President of the USA Donald Trump further raised the imperative of the usage of digital technology in politics. South Africa has also experienced the importance and effect of this technology when the ANC was reported to have collaborated with the Gupta family and a London based Public Relations Company to launch an attack on opposition parties and some journalists. With all that in mind, the question now is how can South African political organisations use digital technology to campaign for the 2019 elections?
A Boston 2010 publication suggests that for organisation to be able to sustain competitive advantage they need to have the ability to adapt to change. These organisations should be able to detect change and devise strategies to cope or embrace the change. When an organisation is considered a height performing organisation, it should show that it the mist of change it can supplement rather than changing its entire strategies. High performing organisations have the ability to adapt to change without changing their strategic objectives and compromising their core strategic functions. This however has evidently been a lot more difficult for many organisations who are still trying to navigate through the effective usage of digital technology. Such organisations need to have channels planners who are able to incorporate the changed or developed technology and the core objectives, culture and strategies of the organisation and deliver what the brand promises.
While some organisations may mistakenly assume that it is too late to adapt to the digital communication field, it is important for channel planers to identify nuances in the changed communication ecosystem and understand how these changes can lead to greater changes for the organisation. The world in general is moving in a fast speed, be it Politically, Socially, Technologically or Economically. These changes are bound to create a generation that organisations need to understand in a short space of time – this generation is the Generation Z. The ability of organisations to adapt to this new technology and understand this generation may determine their success or failure.
Generation Z is said to consist of people born after 1997, this generation is defined by elements that are different to those of Millenials. For example, research shows that different to Generation Z, Millennials are not convinced by mere rhetoric and the organisation’s environmental or sustainability practice to change their behavior towards an organisation. However they may perceive these organisations different to those who have no environmental and sustainability plan. Literature that speaks to the differences between these two generations shows that besides just age difference between these groups is the characteristic of self-awareness. Generation Z is seen to view itself as being a role player in the life of the organisation with interests to improve it. This generation is not only interested in what the organisation does for it but also what it can do for the organisation. Channel planners need to realise that this generation is not an extention of the Millenials but a whole new generation with different behavior, thinking, beliefs and experiences.
Generation Z has experienced unpredictability and disorder. For example, they were among the first to experience effects of the recession of 2008 world-wide, 911 terrorist acts in America and the 2007 Political change in South Africa that has manifested in increasing political instability today. (Merriman,2015:5) argues that this generation also has the strongest relationship with modern technology. For example, this generation did not, like the Millenials, see the introduction of social media or tablets but it was born into it.
Organisations can engage with generation Z by appealing to their sense of identity and believes. For example, sharing content that speaks to these essential elements can open a network of engagement between the organisation and the audience which is essential for co-creation. Research shows that this generation is attracted by organisations that ask them to contribute to their content (Havas Worldwide, 2014:4). Channel planners need to understand that this generation does not agree with everything they read or see; the organisation has to talk, work and play with this generation and not just feed marketing material.
Maintaining online reputation is also a large challenge for channels planners. A single tweet about a negative aspect of the organisation can defame the brand and it would be near impossible for channel planners to control online sentiments about the brand. It is important for channel planners to have contingency plans for any possible threat on the reputation of the brand.
Channel planners may also face a challenge of trolls or people who are out to create trouble for the organisation on the digital platforms. Channel planners can have for example a profanity list on their platforms to prevent any misuse of language on the digital platforms of the brand. Using a hash tag that has negative association such as #CoalisAmazing which was a reaction of a failed campaign by Australia’s minerals council in 2015 could damage the brands online reputation. Therefore, channel planners have the responsibility to do research before choosing to use any hash tag (Murphy, 2007:10-11).