Column published in the November 23, 2015 issue of PRNews
It’s relatively easy to anticipate macro trends in technology for 2016. It is much harder to predict how those trends will change the communications profession. Based on work with large brands and entrepreneurs of all shapes and sizes, here is a list of top trends that will matter most for the Chief Communications Officer and his/her team.
- Audience Architecture Starts to Replace the Coverage Model: We now can see exactly who our audience is online (all social media channels and mainstream media), so we can listen to its needs, align our story with its desires and measure our success in reaching the target market for our brand or topic. Getting coverage is only one piece of this puzzle. Why? Blogs and Twitter drive 2/3s of content flow. Mainstream media has become a catalyst that blogs and Twitter drive. Think of the audience as becoming more important than the outlet. When you get coverage, the PR pro’s job is just beginning. He/she needs to ensure that this coverage reaches the audience; the job calls for sharing it via social channels so it gets to the right people. The end game used to be coverage itself. No more.
- Responsive Experience Replaces Responsive Design: Since more than 50% of content is consumed via phone and that figure will rise to more than 75% in three years or fewer, we have to provide the right experience the first time our customer looks for it online. If we direct people to a website and make them hunt for the desired information, we will lose most people and they won’t come back. We have to deliver the exact content right away. Since people tell us what they want via search, e.g. “company x, product y pricing”, we can deliver this exact content on the first visit. The search words serve as a trigger for the right content, which you have pre-packaged, to show up. Imagine preparing for ten types of customers to visit your site. Once you know who they are via their search terms coming into the site, the content changes to meet their needs. This is simple technology we can all use today.
- We are Entering the era of the 9%: In the 1,9,90 model, fewer than one percent of people create content, approximately nine percent share the content and 90 percent lurk and learn, benefitting from the 1 and the 9. The first ten years of social media have been about the 1 percent. Now, technology advance has made it super easy for the 9 percent to share content, add comments and continue the conversation in any channel and on any device. This is the second sales force for a brand. We must know who they are and start building far better relationships with the 9 percent. They are the best friends of the one percent and should be of us as well.
- We Have Fewer Than Three Seconds to Make an Impression via Video: Facebook boasts 8 billion video views per day, so it knows a thing or two about how users react to video. Its data show that we have fewer than three seconds to grab the viewer’s interest. The result is how we produce video must change. We need to create a strong first impression and should be investing in a wider range of lower cost video, not longer, expensive video. Disagree? OK. But I usually avoid arguing with what we learn from 8 billion views per day. That’s a big enough focus group for me.
- Internal Communications will Start Learning from External Audiences: We have long made the mistake of examining only internal metrics to measure internal satisfaction of our employees. Now, we realize via new models that we can identify what matters to specific employee groups by analyzing their external activities: where they hang out (social channels, forums, blogs), talk, share and learn from each other. The answers to how better align with employees can be found outside of our walls and inside their tribes.
- The Full Story of a Brand Must be Delivered to the Customer: We can now use technology platforms to deliver the full story of a brand (think 4-6 articles and 2-4 links) directly to our customers in any social channel. We can then watch what they like, what they share and dynamically change the content in all channels in seconds. Interactive storytelling is emerging as a new discipline, since we can deliver content anywhere, any channel, anytime. It’s time for us to go to the customer, not ask him/her to visit us.
- The Agile Campaign Starts to Replace the Traditional Campaign: Since we now can see what our audience is doing and thinking in close to real-time, we can introduce the right content into the market based on their current needs. This means that we need to proactively build out libraries of content, so we have pre-approved material ready to share. The days of spending 6-9 months to create a campaign, get approval for it and then enter into the market are ending. In the future, we’ll only do that when we have a specific end date, e.g. when we have a product launch or a drug approved. When we have a choice, we’ll move to agile campaigns 365.
Overall, communications is moving into an era that I call Storytizing, which represents what is possible beyond advertising. We can align directly with our customers via earned, shared and owned media and supplement these interactions with the strategic use of paid media. Our job now is to meet customers on their home turf and pull our stories through the customer’s entire ecosystem in full alignment with their needs.
A new era calls for new techniques and the full embrace of what technology has to offer.
Note: Bob Pearson’s next book, Storytizing, will be available in March, 2016.