Six trends that define 2012 for the comms director

 

Found this article on PR Week UK, it is based only on UK figures. But still it gives for some musings.

 

1. No budget cuts. On the face of it it’s good news, but then I started to ask myself – is it? It could just as well be proof that the budgets already are so low that any cuts would mean abolishing the communications department all together? The answer ”No change” received 43%. However, if you add the three figures for decreased budget; 23, 11, 9 you also get 43% and suddenly the picture is a lot less rosy.

 

While ”doing more for less” might be good for creativity, how good is it for quality and long-term communications work? Admittedly, either should be affected still I can’t help wondering. And I am convinced that the result in next point is one of many direct outcomes of this.

 

It brings a bigger question into light however, how can communications show an added value for business? Because if we can’t we will never see an end to budget cuts.

 

2. Gaining trust is the big challenge. This is the same trend that was reported in Edelman Trust Barometer 2012, globally there has been a decline in trust both towards companies and government. Almost the only part of society where trust has remained is towards e.g. NGO’s. I am not surprised that overall trust in our society is falling. Wherever we look we see blundering; from representatives for the private and the public sector. And to say that the irritation is mounting is to put it mildly.  In fact our politicians should thank their lucky stars that the cash strapped middle class doesn’t take to the streets in protests, but rather goes about with our lives just trying to get both ends meet. And of course our business feels this pinch in trust.

 

There is a demand for increased transparency and very likely an enhanced use of social media will cater for that need, but that leads us to the question – transparency about WHAT?

 

3. Comms teams no longer manage social media. In my eyes this is a most unfortunate development. In the commentary it is hoped that comms cede responsibility because of strategic views that the communications department isn’t best suited to handle social media.

 

I certainly hope that this trend is short-lived. If we already experience difficulties in coordinating corporate messages over the board say with investor relations and internal communications – what difficulties won’t further division create?

 

4. Integration with other parts of the business is key. I copy the commentary here as it is case point for my reasoning in point 3.

 

Comms teams are spending increasing amounts of time working with other departments. Seventy-two per cent are integrating their work more with marketing and sales, while 52 per cent report higher levels of contact with international offices. Particular dissatisfaction was reported around integrating comms messages with investor relations and customer service.

 

5. PR agencies deliver the best and the most ideas. This is nor here nor there, but this gives a good argument for in-house directors to have a wide range of specialities in the one department.

 

I am convinced that one of the major reasons for why PR agencies can do this is the natural cross-fertilization that can occur in a well-functioning agency.

 

6. Short agency relationships. Given what is said in particular point 2 I find this rather a surprising trend. Trust is a long-term achievement, and if you change agency every 18 month how is that built?

 

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