A fine balance: 10 global communication trends

6 years, 5 months ago


With change happening so fast, everyone in the public relations industry has half an eye on what lies just around the corner. Jeremy Galbraith identifies the major trends shaping communication for the year ahead.

As I travel around the Burson-Marsteller network, the subject I get asked to talk about most is the future of communication.
As I see it, the major trends in communication are finely balanced between the emotional: periods of crisis, loss of trust, the desire for personalised communication, the drive towards greater transparency, and the rational: purposeful, strategic counsel with tangible, evidence-based outcomes. These are the ten top trends for 2014:
1.    Shift to Mobile and Beyond #mobile
The biggest trend with the greatest immediate impact on communication is the shift to mobile. Global mobile traffic currently represents 17.4% of all internet traffic and is rapidly increasing.  Mobile internet use is expected to surpass traditional desktop internet use in 2014. Mobile has become so deeply embedded in our lives by offering convenience through immediacy, simplicity and context. Through mobile – and soon wearable – technology each of us can receive individualised content which also points to another major trend, that of personalisation.
2.    Personalisation or the "Youniverse" #personalisation
This idea of creating your own "Youniverse" is a perfect example of tapping into our emotional desire to be seen as unique personalities. Public relations professionals must assist companies in learning how to move from more traditional tactics in favour of smarter approaches that extend their personalisation capabilities beyond the PC. The ability to deliver relevant communication across multiple channels will transform these marketing efforts from an unwanted intrusion into a valued service.
3.    Social Media Impact on Communication #socmedimpact 
Public relations professionals need to keep pace with this fast-evolving environment. The challenge is dealing every day with two huge data explosions: the expanding universe of ‘digital influencers’ and the massive volume of social media conversations and real-time mentions that concern your brand, industry and competition. Digital influencers have grown 30-fold in less than two years. A crucial difference with traditional media is the need for engagement. The sheer volume of mentions requires brands to prioritise: find out who matters, determine what they’re saying, how it sways others and how best to engage with them. Balancing the emotional (dialogue) with the rational (measurement of influence) is the key.
4.    Brand Journalism #brandjournalism 
Social media broke the traditional media model in one fundamental way: media organizations are no longer gatekeepers of information & audiences. The very definition of "news" is changing, and this evolution creates the opportunity for PR & content marketing pros to create timely content that earns credibility, earns media and generates ongoing (and relevant) visibility for the brand. The key to finding and telling great stories in a way that will make your audience not only want to engage with them but share and even repurpose them is to commit to trying new things. Brand journalism isn’t content marketing, nor is it sponsored content. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It is meaningful, quality storytelling.
5.    Crisis in the "Always On" Era #prcrisis  
Since the advent of "always on" social media, companies have to guard their reputations even more vigilantly. Viral videos can wreak havoc on brands. Legal responses like attempting to pull videos from YouTube only inflame the situation. Speed is of the essence and ultimately the only answer at times like this is timely, honest and transparent communication. This leads us to another key trend: hyper-transparent communication.
6.    Transparency is King #transparency  
In our hyper-connected world, the trend is increasingly towards hyper-transparent communication. Consumers and other stakeholders have many more channels at their disposal for exposing and discrediting companies for any lack of honesty. As difficult a concept as that is for many, transparency is the only answer and any failures in this area are punished with alarming speed and efficiency. Brands that embrace this hyper-honesty trend will reap the benefits in consumer trust.
7.    Evidence-Based #evidence  
A major trend in public relations is that of measurement from the outset and throughout a campaign to measure impact and effectiveness. Burson-Marsteller has developed an evidence based approach to communication with the use of research among target audiences to test messages and measure results.
Digital campaigns are particularly easy to track as many social media channels like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have their own analytics which make it possible to demonstrate the reach of these campaigns by the number of views, shares, retweets, likes, etc. But it’s pushing beyond simple measurement into actionable insight that will be the game- changer for communications.
8.    Image is All #image  
Studies have shown that people remember only 20% of what they read (are you still with me?) and that 83% of learning occurs visually. The massive popularity of visual social networks like Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr, demonstrates the emotional power of images to tell stories in a way that is proven to be far more memorable than mere words. In the same way, viral videos tell more powerful stories and allow greater engagement with consumers.
The rise of infographics also shows the capacity of visuals to break large chunks of data into digestible portions. The bottom line is, we all have ever shorter attention spans and compelling images and visualisations are the key to making your story stand out from the crowd.
9.    Power of Communicating Purpose #purpose  
The world has fundamentally changed. Globalisation, democratisation of information, the rise of social media and the global financial crisis have forced corporate leaders to reassess the strategic path for their brands and organisations. They do so at a time when the central objectives of communication, reputation and trust, have shifted shape, perhaps irrevocably. In today’s hostile business environment, there is more need than ever for companies to explain why they are here, the rationale and the context.
Our 2013 Power of Purpose study builds on those we carried out in 2008, 2010 and 2011 but with a new focus on how Corporate Purpose impacts on challenges which are increasingly relevant for companies in today’s business environment: the need for transparency, managing successful organisational change and reputation recovery after a crisis.
10.   Integrated Communication #integration  
The digital age has heralded a polar – and some might argue generational – shift in the way that the communications industries of PR, marketing, and advertising operate. It is increasingly evident that the future lies in full integration of all the communication disciplines. Previous (above and below) lines of demarcation are slowly but surely being dissolved. Driven by the fast pace of technological innovations, we can expect the industry evolution towards integrated communication to gather pace.
Throughout the year I will be actively tweeting @GalbraithJeremy about these #10commstrends and building a Storifyon each one, so please do follow and RT as these will be constantly updated.
Thought Leader Profile
Jeremy Galbraith is the CEO of Burson-Marsteller Europe, Middle East and Africa, Global Chief Strategy Officer, and a member of Burson-Marsteller’s Global Leadership Team. He was previously the CEO of Burson-Marsteller in Brussels from 2000 to 2007, having first joined Burson-Marsteller in 1995 to head up the UK Public Affairs Practice. Jeremy has spent over 20 years helping leading companies and organisations manage crises, critical issues as well as influence political processes. He has also advised governments, Prime Ministers and other senior politicians on positioning themselves at home and around the world.

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The Author

Jeremy Galbraith

Jeremy Galbraith is the CEO of Burson-Marsteller Europe, Middle East and Africa, Global Chief Strategy Officer, and a member of Burson-Marsteller’s Global Leadership Team.

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