One of the key factors to my ability to stay alive in the last decade or so has been my facility and familiarity with digital mediums and my digital footprint which I have accrued over time.
Miraculously, in our digital age, very few writers, publicists and PR companies, it seems, bother to have learned much about how it all works. Now, while I am far from an expert, I do have a good understanding of digital content and platforms and have been engaged with them since 1999… and I was a late adopter!
Basically it is all the fault of then managing editor ofiAfrica.com, Mr Alan Hammond. Alan employed me in 1999 as the entertainment editor of the iafrica.com portal at a time when I could barely operate a web browser. By the time I left there I was also re-shaping and editing the travel section of iafrica: to say the bug bit me is somewhat of an understatement!
I learned tonnes about content, platforms, content management systems and user engagement at iafrica. The team was young and exciting and included such people as a young Matthew Buckland (ex digital editor of MG.co.za), Tshepo Mogale (comedian and kwaito star), Darren Katz (TV soapie scriptwriter) and Donna Kipps (Business consultant and trainer). It was a good place to learn new stuff.
The fact that I knew nothing really about web and digital when I started also left me with an enduring ‘can do’ attitude when it comes to this space. I knew I knew nothing, and yet I could learn it, easily. This approach I have applied to social media, smart phones, e-books and blogging ever since. And I believe everyone should. The key to all of these interfaces is that they are designed to be intuitive and user friendly: just try it out!
This starting point was also cemented by help and advice from two key online rebels: Jaxon Rice and Bill Botes. These two guys are coders, hackers, designers, self taught internet and digital mavericks. They helped me with blogs, with social media, with a DIY attitude that says: You can’t break it, play with it. Use your head, figure it out.
I am still nowhere near as savvy as any of these 3 big influences BUT their attitude and their help has left me with an attitude that has allowed me to establish a great digital presence as an author, consult on social media strategy and services to companies, generate digital content for national websites and generally go where few writers or publicists seems to dare venture. That’s pretty damn cool. And fun. Because online remains one of the few untamed wild places left on earth (virtually!)