Many recent technology developments, such as social media and mobile technologies, have had an enormous impact on our communication style and are already well integrated into our day-to-day lives.
However, there are other trends that are starting to emerge and have the potential for an equal or greater impact.
Outlined below are four trends that are changing the way we communicate globally.
1. Brand journalism – The definition of news is changing. News consumers no longer rely on traditional media models as the gatekeepers of information. They want to understand how the news affects different stakeholders, they want the background and the detail to any story, and they want to be astounded and entertained. Brand journalism isn’t content marketing or sponsored content. It is meaningful, transparent, quality storytelling that is delivered the way people want to consume it, not the way organisations want to deliver it.
The key is to create content that both engages and compels the audience to share and re-purpose the news.
These organisations make news that others read, write, comment on and distribute via social networks.
2. Citizen journalism – Citizen journalists are ‘the people formerly known as the audience’.
Until recently, they were “on the receiving end of a media system that ran one way, in a broadcasting pattern, with high entry fees and a few firms competing to speak very loudly while the rest of the population listened in isolation from one another — and who today are not in a situation like that at all … The people formerly known as the audience are simply the public made real-er, less fictional, more able, less predictable.” (add reference source).
Brown Moses (a.k.a Bellingcat) is an English citizen journalist and blogger, known for investigative social media and weapons analysis on the Syrian War.
He was the first person to confirm Syria used chemical weapons on its citizens, and confirmed Russian rebels shot down the Malaysian commercial airplane.
He reported it – before the media outlets did, demonstrating citizen journalism in action.
3. Crisis in the ‘always on’ era – The 24/7 world of social media has created the ‘always on’ era, where organisations and governments are expected to uphold the highest standards of corporate responsibility and sustainability from consumers, citizens and employees.
Mobile devices with video and camera functionality are everywhere and provide instant access to the internet.
While the fundamentals of crisis management remain (i.e. quick, honest and transparent communication is always the recommended approach to managing a crisis), the opportunities for a reputational crisis to occur have increased exponentially. All it takes is one unfavourable video on YouTube to create a public relations issue, or exacerbate an existing crisis.
Characteristics of a social ‘crisis’ include:
- Asymmetry of knowledge – When the organisation knows less than the public
- Change from the norm – When the general negative chatter changes area, interest, or volume
- Potential harm to business/organisations – When an incident presents a direct threat to the stock price, sales or reputation of an organisation.
A good example of an organisation proactively managing their reputation in the ‘always on’ era is Gatorade’s Mission Control centre, which was created to track how the brand’s customers and stakeholders are talking about Gatorade products.
4. Transparency rules – In this increasingly connected world, intense expectation is placed on organisations to provide complete transparency in all communication.
The mantra from stakeholders is “your experience is not our experience.” An organisation’s perspective is not necessarily embraced by message recipients as representing their point of view.
Brand journalism, citizen journalism and crises in the ‘always on’ era have created an environment where stakeholders have the means to quickly punish an organisation that is deemed to have failed its communication responsibilities.
In comparison, organisations that are able to sincerely and openly communicate with their stakeholders will create the most loyal stakeholder audience.