How will you, the communicator, be affected by a changing media landscape in 2011?
The digital media landscape is changing. While that may be the most overused phrase of 2010, there is a strong element of truth in it. Technology develops rapidly and as it changes, so too does the behavior of its users. Early adopters set the stage, changing a certain process, and then the mainstream masses start applying this same behavior.
We at MyNewsdesk have been busy researching upcoming PR, marketing and communication trends that we believe will see fruition in 2011 – trends that have the potential to change certain behaviors in your target audience. We wanted to highlight certain elements in the digital media landscape that we feel you should keep an eye out for, as they have moved beyond the early-adopters stage.
As you know, we live in a time of nearly endless opportunity for communicators. This should both excite and perhaps worry all who are responsible for a company’s PR and marketing. You should feel excitement because it is now possible to engage and interact directly with your target audience, in a timely and cost-effective manner.
But, this changing media landscape is not without its challenges. PR and marketing professionals that do not adapt to the changing media environment stand the risk of falling behind competitors who dare to try new things.
We consulted and compiled a list of trends from PR, marketing, and communication experts we respect and follow intently. We presented our preliminary findings a few weeks ago to an audience of customers, media personalities, journalists, and others that are curious about digital media. We intended to start a discussion and debate to see if we were on the right track.
And so as a result of those preparations, here is our take on PR, marketing, communication in 2011. Enjoy and don’t hesitate to put in your 2 cents’ worth.
1. Companies become their own Media
Over the past 2 years we have heard more and more companies discussing the use of Social Media. For a company, social networks allow companies to take out the middleman and become their own media. There is a shift from the old model of content ownership. Instead of relying on traditional 3rd party media to promote and spread their message, companies can share and take part in a conversation directly with their intended audience. And as a consequence, even more of the PR and marketing budget must shift to online activities.
Therefore, a communicator or PR professional needs to discern how to invest in Social Media activities intelligently. This investment will be based on goals, strategies, and convincing upper management that trial and error will be part of it.
Here are two examples of companies that have turned themselves into media houses.
Gatorade’s Social Media Mission Control
Gatorade has the luxury of a seemingly unlimited budget. However, observing and taking inspiration from their tactics could help you translate their efforts to a smaller scale.
Cisco’s Social Media Accounts
With around 100 Twitter handles, 26 Facebook pages, 300 YouTube channels, 61 communities and 37 blogs, Cisco has really invested into the concept of Social Media. They based their social media strategy on the “Dandelion”, one of Jeremiah Owyang’s Frameworks for Social Business. This model allows flexibility but sacrifices a bit of control. However, in this arena, control is fleeting and because technologies and people’s behavior change rapidly, it is adaptability that counts.
2. The rise of the fearless communicator
In many ways, PR has not changed. A communicator’s job is still about good writing, finding a good story, coming up with catchy headlines, and building relationships with the media. The change lies in the medium for these skills and where the conversations around these stories are taking place.
According to a recent study by Jeff Mancini, 78% of major corporations use social media, but only 41% have a strategic digital plan. Nearly 60% are sending mixed messages through these channels. And so, while companies are becoming their own media as noted above, they are also relinquishing control over the spread and interpretation of their messages.
The Internet, and social media in particular, has given consumers much more power over a brand’s message. PR professionals need to do more than just package a good story and build relationships. They need to listen and engage a dynamic, fickle, and very influential audience – their own customers.
This requires a fearlessness and humility, because what happens is that you are forced to experiment. You have to dabble with trial and error, in a very transparent environment that can be subject to intense scrutiny. On top of that, you will have to deal with managers at the company that might not be willing to take the Social Media step.
The example of Cisco above clearly shows a company that is willing to take that plunge. They have developed strategies to reach their audience, to find where the conversation is happening, and to listen to what their customers are saying.
Like Cisco, your Social Media communication tactics have to be flexible and have to follow your audience’s behavior and needs. For example, open one account specifically for customer service and one for more commercial messages. Open one for your local city market and one for an international market in a different language.
Most importantly you have to show your manager that not participating in Social Media is more damaging to your brand than occasional missteps in Facebook or Twitter.
3. Internal becomes external
In his report, Jeff Mancini believes that “social media has allowed customers to peer directly into the windows of companies and see the people who work inside.” With the emergence of the fearless communicator, comes the increase in transparency and openness – its what customers require from an “engaged” company. Whichever framework for social business is chosen, your intended audience gains entry to a part of your company that would otherwise often remain private: its people. The main effect of this is that your employees give your company a face to the name. It makes your company personal, but not necessarily private (which is, of course, a good thing).
At MyNewsdesk, for example, we use what is called Holistic Honeycomb framework. We leverage each of our 50 employees to communicate and engage with our customers. We work with a set of values and cultural rules that all employees understand and buy into. Each employee becomes the face of the company, a brand ambassador.
As Joseph Kumar Gross of Allianz says, “more and more, the brand promise will need to be delivered through the whole organization to provide a consistent customer experience and create and sustain a meaningful brand.”
4. From B2C and B2B to B2P: Business-to-People
The business world seems to revolve around the traditional Business-to-Business (B2B) and Business-to-Consumer (B2C) models. But as “internal becomes external” companies are shifting towards B2P, or Business to People.
Marty Homlish at SAP put it this way: “The distinction between B2B and B2C brands is becoming irrelevant. Behind every business ‘B’ is a person who expects a Consumer-like experience.” As the lines blur between the two concepts, it becomes increasingly clear that a company is stops dealing with a “what” but with a “who”.
And so, you have to be communicative on their terms. Listen to your “people” individually, whether they are a business or a direct consumer. Find out how they want you to engage with them and adapt your business strategies accordingly. Let them interact with your company and use that as a base to meet their needs and predict their behavior.
Eventually, what this will lead to is a business model that drops the “B” altogether, and becomes People-to-People. Perhaps something we’ll see already in 2011?