I recently had the privilege of speaking to a group of students at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia. Here are a few of my thoughts on that occasion.

Had I left the world of public relations not long after starting out professionally in the early 1990s, then reemerged in it in 2015, odds are good I would not recognize what I had stepped into. In fact, chances are favorable that had I left even just a few years ago and returned today I would struggle to re-acclimate. Gone are the days of one-way, “push” communication, when advertising was king, PR played dubious, as-yet-untested second fiddle and the masses were looked upon merely as voiceless consumers eagerly awaiting the next product pitch. The pace of technological advancement in recent years has meant one thing, primarily, for the communications industries: When it comes to telling stories and influencing consumers, we no longer have the upper hand.

The past decade has seen the rise of the crowdsourced breaking news story and YouTube celebrities, and there is now an expectation that companies engage with their previously silent customers. Communities formed online have shown themselves to be 3D-viable, capable of moving into and thriving in the real world. Now a self-described “mommy blogger” with an interest in healthy eating and the environment can, by wielding her sizable online following and all the purchasing power that following brings to bear, in essence force a company to modify its product.

But all this is not to say that communications-related industries are irrelevant – far from it. In an era in which anyone with the right tools at her disposal can have her voice heard (potentially worldwide), timing, quality and nuance of message will all continue to become much more important. Here are my tips for making your voice heard in this new “age of convergence”:

Be a storyteller

Even the most compelling of stories can be relayed poorly enough to sound boring. And the corollary is (mostly) true, too. So if you can tell a story that needs telling in a way that engages listeners, you will always be sought after.

Quality is still queen

There is no replacement for hard work and the honing of a craft – or public relations 101.  In a world where everyone is a journalist, those who have been trained will rise above the rest.

Remember your roots

The best communicators I’ve come across in my career are those who have been able to bring humanity into their stories. They are the ones who are helping us bridge from the “Internet of Things” back to where it started – the humanity of everything. Remembering where you came from and what you stand for as a person will imbue your work with a humanness that technology will never be able to emulate.

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Nelson Fernandez

Nelson Fernandez, executive director and managing director of APCO Worldwide's New York office, provides counsel to APCO clients on corporate communication, corporate giving, issues and crisis management, and media training. Read More