What’s App, (Non)Slack(er) …

A few weeks ago, a client told me they communicated entirely in Slack, told me they’d add me to their account, and I’d get a quicker response from them using the … (still don’t know how to describe it, other than it’s kind of awesome) … application. “You’re all set with Slack, right?” they asked, the way a waitress asks if you want more coffee when your cup is bone-dry, anticipating an obvious “yes.”

“Absolutely!” I said, with confidence that surprised even myself.

Although in reality, I hadn’t, and at that point I couldn’t get Superchunk’s excellent “Slack (really bad word)” out of my mind. Or the film Slacker, which got me down an internal rathole of “Why would I use a productivity tool named after a Richard Linklater film Wikipedia calls “uniquely structured and seemingly plotless“?

I took some solace in that, while I didn’t know their fancy messaging program, they probably didn’t know this excellent song. A small victory. Here it is — warning, it intended for mature audiences only:


(Between you and me, I had never used Slack, Yammer, WhatsApp, and the 45 other interoffice communications tools that are on the market. I had used Skype, but mostly to let the boys see their grandparents (and ultimately, see who can stick their tongue closest to the camera without licking it.) I felt like Grandpa Simpson when he decided to re-enter the workforce through a job at Krusty Burger, yet having no idea how to do … anything.)


I had worked at firms that were e-mail centric (first Eudora, then Outlook) and used file servers, thus attachments to said emails. Occasionally we’d dabble in Google Docs (but then save a copy to the server). We had never worked with the bevy of tools I mentioned above, and typically were able to gracefully bow out by blaming the third-party, hosted desktops I had chosen (a story for another day, after much more therapy).

And basically, it worked for me, and for clients. Then I tried Slack, and come to find out, it’s pretty cool. It’s never going to replace e-mail for me, but it’s a solid way to share documents, and I’m told it can be used for calls too. Like … Skype!

Then yesterday I read a piece in Fast Company (hard copy, old skool) on the “22 biggest rivalries of 2016.”Come to find out, a lot of tech vendors and products have beefs, not unlike Biggie and 2Pac. Of interest — Slack vs. Skype, or “26 Billion Reasons Why Microsoft Must Beat Slack To The Future of Productivity.”:

In an alternate universe, Microsoft wouldn’t have to compete with Slack—because it would own it. In March, TechCrunch reported that Microsoft applications and services chief Qi Lu had pitched his bosses the idea of paying up to $8 billion to acquire the messaging phenom. CEO Satya Nadella and cofounder Bill Gates reportedly nixed the idea, with Gates arguing that Microsoft should instead focus on turning Skype—its voice, video, and messaging service—into a formidable Slack rival.

It’s easy to understand why Lu might covet the highly polished workplace chat-room service. Less than three years old, Slack already has 3 million daily active users, and more importantly, Slacksters spend an average of 10 hours connected to the service each weekday, two hours of it in active use—time they could be using Microsoft Outlook for email. However, it’s clear why Nadella and Gates might have been cold to the proposal. Microsoft has tried to make a Slack-like service work several times: It bought Skype in 2011 for $8.5 billion and Yammer, another office-collaboration tool, in 2012 for $1.2 billion. Neither deal proved transformative.


So there you have it. Microsoft will keep buying Skype-y applications, entrepreneurs much smarter than I will create newer, better, interoffice collaboration tools, and I will pretend I know how to use them when asked. Also, I’ve learned that Office 365, Google Docs and Slack can all coexist quite nicely. Sure, there’s a few workarounds that have to be done, but I can share documents and communicate effectively.

The key here for PR professionals?

Work how you work, stay abreast of emerging communication technologies, be flexible when a client asks you to use new and different tools, and figure out a way to adapt them into your workflow as best you can.

And definitely see Slacker and listen to Superchunk, too. That goes for everyone, not just PR professionals.

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