Multiple social and digital platforms are replacing traditional media. These platforms move faster and cross boundaries more easily than national media. To call them news media is not now accurate—they rely on entertainment rather than fact.
The content of these social platforms is spontaneous, creative and rapid. They effect brand reputation profoundly. Brands are set aflame almost daily surrounded by anonymous dancing sans-culottes.
This is the opportunity for the communications industry. This is the seat on the board we’ve been waiting for. The plodding due process is too slow to cope.
It’s also too late once the crisis has started. Our job is not just the presence of the positive. It’s also the absence of the negative. We can provide the shield and sword.
That’s why the communications industry needs to move to the intersection of the creative with the imperative.
Individuals use these platforms to talk. Companies must use them to listen. They must seek to understand before seeking to be understood.
They will need new staff to run these new platforms. Some will have the skills, such as news writers and trial attorneys. They are not as well placed for diverse visual and creative talent that can work under imperative.
This will encompass graphic design, podcasts, video, microsites and apps spread across Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest.
Communications is as much about design, video and photography as it is about text. If you want to communicate a message, you capture it in the most engaging way possible.
Now the only thing that separates PR from advertising is the speed at which it creates content.
The social and digital engagement platforms of the 21st century will feed on imperative [and] vital content.
Much of this content is news-based whether in primary or secondary forms. And it is increasing in both volume and speed. Creative refresh is driven by imperative.
Communications professionals speak to their clients every day of the week and twice on Sundays.
If they combine creative content with their ability to respond in real-time, the opportunity is clear.
To better understand the scope of this opportunity—and the way that the industry is moving—keep some of these guidelines in mind:
• Understand that the volume and frequency of data from social media is shortening attention spans. This means you need to compress and prioritize messaging to the elemental and graphic.
• Because social media sits on a digital platform, these images also have greater reach and efficiency internationally.
• When the majority of social media content is news, or reaction to news, there is ample room for challengers to comment. But they must be ready with a variety of media content including pictures, graphics, video, audio and Web links.
• The messages themselves do not necessarily need to change, but they must adapt to the media.
• Expect to see more videographers, more graphic designers and more people who can combine the creative with the imperative.
So that’s the “progress” in the communications industry.
At the same time “progress” in all the other areas of society cannot be ignored. Universities and colleges are having their funding cut. Student places in secondary or tertiary art education are falling.
Whatever the politics of this, the logical conclusion is that if the communications industry wants its place at the table, it needs to invest and invest some more.
This industry needs to fund arts education itself and the use of visual and creative arts in communications.
This is why LEWIS PR founded the nonprofit foundation, Kupambana. This independent charity will help train students as well as professionals, and produce insightful research in applied creativity in communications.
The intersection of the imperative and the creative is an opportunity for art educators and communicators to come together.
If we want to make history as an industry, we must promote creativity and fight for its inclusion; we must challenge the status quo. We must invest in the next generation. We are positioned against powerful incumbents. We must do what they are unwilling or unable to.
We can, all of us, make history if we think big for our colleagues, our clients and people who need and deserve our support. Change is in the air. And it smells fresh.
Chris Lewis is founder and CEO of LEWIS PR. Follow him on Twitter: @largeburrito.
This article appeared in the June 17 issue of PR News. Subscribe to PR News today to receive weekly comprehensive coverage of the most fundamental PR topics from visual storytelling to crisis management to media training.