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 trends that will matter most for the chief communications officer and his or her team.
1. 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). 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? From our experience we find blogs and Twitter drive two-thirds 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 or she needs to ensure this coverage reaches the audience; the job calls for sharing via social channels so it gets to the right people. The endgame used to be coverage itself. No more.
2. Responsive Experience Tops 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 content on the first visit. Search words serve as a trigger for the right content, which you have prepackaged, to show up. Imagine preparing for 10 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.
3. Entering the era of the 9%: In the 1–9–90 model, fewer than 1% of people create content, approximately 9% share it and 90% lurk and learn, benefiting from the 1 and the 9. The first 10 years of social media have been about the 1%. Technology has made it super easy for the 9% 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%. They are the best friends of the 1% and should be ours as well.
4. Impress Fast: Facebook boasts 8 billion video views per day, so it knows how users react to video. Its data show that we have less than three seconds to grab the viewer’s interest. The conclusion: How we produce video must change. We need to create a strong first impression and invest in a wider range of lower-cost video, not longer, expensive video. Disagree? Usually I avoid arguing with what we learn from 8 billion views per day. That’s a big enough focus group for me.
5. Internal Learns From External: We have long made the mistake of examining only internal metrics to measure internal satisfaction of our employees. Via new models we can identify what matters to employee groups by analyzing their external activities: where they hang out, talk, share and learn from each other. Answers to how to better align with employees can be found outside our walls, inside their tribes.
6. The Brand’s Full Story Must Be Delivered: We can now use technology platforms to deliver the full story of a brand (think 4-6 articles and 2-4 links) directly to customers in any social channel. We can then watch what they like and share, and dynamically change the content in all channels in seconds. Interactive storytelling is emerging as a discipline, since we can deliver content anywhere, any channel, anytime. It’s time we go to the customer, not ask him or her to visit us.
7. Agile Campaign Replaces 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 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 completely.
Communications is moving into what I call the “storytizing” era, which represents what’s possible beyond advertising. We can align with our customers via earned, shared and owned media and supplement that with the strategic use of paid media. Our job is to meet customers on their home turf and pull our stories through their ecosystem in full alignment with their needs. A new era calls for new techniques and the full embrace of what technology offers.
This article originally appeared in the November 23, 2015 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.