Last week I was part of the panel discussion around the future of marketing communications at the CIPR Marketing Communications group event in London. It was a great evening with a few of us talking about the journey of PR as a profession, the use of digital and video and the fundamentals of PR. I was talking internal communications – looking forward and back.
For the 10-minute talk I took five themes that I think are important today and will be in the future so I thought I would share my thinking here:
Specifically trust in leadership which we know from the latest Edelman survey is on the rise. What we saw this year for the first time was a drop in the trust of peers to an all-time low. This brings us to fake news which for me is just a new phrase for the rumour mill inside organisations. Overall the trust piece is about authenticity. Our profession is so much more than ghost writing for the CEO as it used to be and I can see this trend of leaders taking ownership and accountability for their own communication continuing into 2018 and beyond.
Verification and Governance
As we see the rise of fake news we also see the importance of verification and governance. How often do we still hear “it’s ok, it’s only internal”? It’s not ok. Firstly, your employees deserve the same rigour to the story you’re writing as any external stakeholder and secondly, there is no such thing as truly internal content. Running a global comms team after an IPO was my first experience of the importance of verification and governance and using the same thoroughness through all our communication channels only improved our internal reputation. With the rise of Glassdoor and employee reviews online, verifying and having governance across channels has never been more important.
Glassdoor raises further questions or statements for organisations – what happens on the inside shows up on the outside. We can no longer create a consumer brand that doesn’t reflect the same values internally. The number of emails that are leaked to the press during times of crisis, or videos of customer experiences that are shared online – the risk with our current technology is huge. Let’s avoid the risk and ensure that when we talk about corporate reputation, the internal communicator is at the heart of that conversation.
I have recently been catching up Black Mirror – the 2014 episode ‘White Christmas’ is almost a reality today as we introduce Voice into our homes and are able to control the lighting, temperature and more from afar. AI is the big trend we seem to come back to – through fear of the unknown and curiosity – and the trend I think we will start to get underneath this year. For internal communicators, the rise of the chatbot seems to be high on the list of technology to explore.
We are seeing the conversations around ESN move to a discussion on the integration of a variety of digital channels – there is no one size fits all and we need to talk about content alongside the channels to make them work for our organisations – it’s time to move away from talking channels independently of content.
Data is something I’m talking about more and more. How we do we follow the same approach as Marketing to build data profiles for audience segmentation, content mapping and measuring what we do.
As we get caught up in the newest tech and shiny new toys to play with our basic skills as communicators are the fundamental elements that leaders are looking for. We should be confident in writing stories, constructing messages based on the content we are given and knowing how to use the right channel to reach the right audience. We talk a lot about being strategic but we shouldn’t forget the absolute basics. The importance of line manager communications is still a big topic on the barrier list to success and it has been there for at least 10 years – maybe it’s time to look at some of these less strategic challenges and get them right before we run to try and sit in the Boardroom.
You can see more about the event on Twitter using #futureofmarcomms and there are some great takeaways from the other presenters on there as well – including a list of tools mentioned by @wadds during his talk about how technology is enhancing insights into audiences and how PRs are harnessing that power to develop strategic communications.