What’s in store for communicators, PR pros, and marketers in 2012?
Time for Part 2 of our sneak peek into the future of PR and communications!
(Unless, of course, you want to read Part 1 first or you’d rather watch Jonathan Bean‘s presentation of all ten trends in the Mynewsdesk newsroom instead.)
Table of Contents
6. Online Goes Offline Goes Online Goes Offline
As we mentioned, placing more importance on your digital communication channels will be key in 2012. However, keep in mind that Digital First does not mean Digital Only. Next year, more than ever before, it will be vital for companies to complement and leverage their digital channels with offline efforts.
This is because the line between people’s online profile and their real-life personalities will become increasingly blurred – you’re the same person when browsing Amazon as you are when walking through a department store.
An example that illustrates this attitude is this year’s winner of the Cannes Lions Grand Prix for PR, Clemenger BBDO Melbourne. They used a holistic approach to the winning campaign, Break Up, involving elements of PR, marketing, and advertising to help distinguish their client, National Australia Bank, from the competition.
We’ve focused a lot on digital storytelling. Clemenger BBDO’s example above also incorporates the real world – connecting the digital with the physical in an integrated campaign. One thing that it didn’t do, however, was to involve their public directly. While, of course, the story spread through social media initially, Clemenger BBDO controlled the whole campaign, rather than allowing it to become an organic, evolving story with input from customers, influencers, competitors, or other stakeholders.
Had they used a fully holistic marketing approach, they would have empowered their audience to build a community around the story, sharing and developing it beyond its original incarnation – both online and off.
The example above required an immense budget. However, creativity is key, not money. For communicators and marketers, there are many opportunities offered by the free tools and services currently available, such as location-based services like FourSquare or Gowalla. Ensure that all clients and employees are aware of the digital channels, campaigns, and competitions you’re running. Encourage them to promote and take part in these.
7. Come Out And Play
The gamification of online experiences will start dominating all online activities in 2012. That’s a very bold statement, and despite most companies not even thinking of gamifying their communications, we’re noticing the increased importance of giving people a personal experience and, most importantly, giving them an opportunity to have fun.
It’s all about that most innate of human character traits – competitiveness – combined with getting motivated by gaining a sense of progress. Gamification caters to both these needs and instills a deep level of engagement in the participants. And in the last year, BMW launched a campaign that is an excellent example of this:
Of course, a campaign of that magnitude would require a big budget, but as mentioned before, a little creativity (and perhaps the use of free services like FourSquare), could get you a long way. Communicators need to think of different ways to engage their audience on a personal experience level. The trick is to come up with a campaign or event whose main objective is to let your influencers have fun, while fulfilling a sense of progress towards a clear goal or reward.
It’s more than just rewarding air miles or bonus points for each purchase. Allow for other activities along the whole customer journey that would be rewarded with more points, gifts, or even intangible rewards like badges or titles for a certain level reached. It’s like playing a video game!
8. Life On The Go
We mentioned this last year, but at the speed things are developing within this field, we might have to mention every year. No PR and communication trends report would be complete without the inclusion of Mobile. In fact, we strongly believe that the future of online will be in mobile.
The reason is that we see three behavioral trends dominating our lives. It’s about convenience, context, and fun.
When we speak of convenience, we mean that mobile devices allow us to be connected to what we want 24 hours a day (for better or worse). We’re able to get things done faster and transform the way we do business and consume information.
In terms of context, the mobile allows for more efficient access to relevant information when needed. And as Marissa Mayer, Head of Mobile and Geolocation at Google says, “The mobile phone acts as a cursor to connect the digital and the physical.”
And finally, the best thing about mobile is the ability to make life fun.
This is exactly what we’ve been talking about previously, when discussing an integrated marketing approach, gamification, and focusing on digital first. Mobile is the platform to make it happen.
As a communicator or marketer, regardless of what type of business, you need to start thinking of mobile as an important channel for your brand, if you haven’t already. Perhaps start with mobile versions of your website or think of an app that can engage your customers even further.
9. In The Eye Of The Beholder
At this point, we thought it would be important to highlight two of the most exciting and innovative technologies and services available today.
When launched as an iPad app earlier this year, it shot up to number four on the App Store Chart, and when looked at as a content platform, that’s when things really get exciting. Qwiki creates interactive multimedia presentations of information. So, instead of reading a Wikipedia article about London, Qwiki creates a visual presentation, complete with narrative, about London, sourcing information from various sites, including Wikipedia itself.
The idea is to release Qwiki as a platform on which anyone can create Qwiki presentations about any subject. Imagine being able to present a multimedia news release in this format, or creating Qwiki profiles of your sales people, using information sources of your choice (i.e. not just Wikipedia). An app that is currently being made is a Qwiki-based alarm clock that wakes you up with the latest headlines, your appointments of the day, and the weather predictions for the next few hours.
When first introduced two years ago, it was perhaps a little ahead of its time or too reminiscent of virtual reality, the concept it supposedly replaced. But now, the real world application of augmented reality can clearly be seen. Again it connects the digital with the physical, again it emphasizes a fun personal experience, and again it can involve mobile.
While current usage would probably involve a hefty investment, the technology is rapidly advancing. Communicators willing to give it a try will quickly realize just how many possibilities technology like this offers.
10. Content Is King, But It’s The People’s Kingdom
Last year, we predicted that 2011 would see a shift from the B2B and B2C narrative, to a B2P (business-to-people) mindset. We also said that we hoped we’d be talking about people-to-people instead. We believe that 2012 will see this concept become mainstream.
As mentioned, the quality of the brand is measured by the people who surround it. Or rather, the customers make the brand. Therefore, it becomes clear that companies need to let go of the brand as a self-centered media object, and embrace it as a dynamic collaboration between the company, community, and influencers.
This is because a customer is not just buying the products or services, but they are also buying the people. In the recent People issue of Think Quarterly (by Think with Google), the authors state: “Information is inseparable from the people who are creating, consuming, and sharing it. And the web is no longer anonymous – it’s built on real people and their connections, opinions, and ideas.” This is true for the information, content, and organization of your company.
It is vital then that companies maintain and nurture their network of influencers and customers, because people trust other people, not logos, brands, or corporations.
As communicators, this will be essential. This is what all the previous trends boil down to, this is what all the technologies, concepts, and strategies are based on. To create true engagement around your brand, you must first change your mindset and think in terms of people-to-people.
Appendix: Some Recent Events
Change is difficult. Change is painful. And we don’t always know how to react to change. Here are two telling examples that concretely show how the current changes and trends can affect companies and organizations – and how their reactions might not always be ideal. But, under the circumstances, did they do the right thing? Would you do something similar?
- AP reporters were told off for tweeting news flashes, rather than sending them through the wire.
- Ben, the Shippam’s Paste intern who ran their Twitter account was a fake. A case of brand-jacking or well-intentioned joke?