What are the trends for the coming year? As with most predictions, they are an evolution from the years before, making them even easier to foretell. In other cases, there are those hidden gems that emerge, leapfrog, or completely transform beyond our wildest expectations. Therein lies the fun.
I believe that 2017 will continue to invigorate communications and PR, pushing the boundaries of our storytelling chops. From mobile and social, digital and visual, big data and content customization, the upcoming trends will allow brands to truly expand their creative communications toolkit.
As we review the field, there are plenty of elements where we can take our media tactics to the next level, but with an emphasis on greater integration. The strategic collaboration with other organizational functions will galvanize efforts, elevating brand visibility, value, and trust.
Clients and consumers are tech-savvy and content advantaged. Access to all sorts of information about brands is at an all-time high, but valuable context and quality may be scarce. The digital brand experience is ready for a makeover.
The best brands will evolve their publishing capabilities by securing world-class writing talent, with thoughtful and targeted brand journalism methods. Rather than pushing similar content on all or most channels saturating the market with noise and nonsense, brands will attempt to humanize themselves in the digital world by leveraging big data insights for meaningful customization and personalization of stories.
Over the next few years, there will be increased creativity in the space as brands look to bring more of the experiential side to digital storytelling. Either piecing a story together across multiple channels and mediums, engaging audiences in a myriad of ways, or telling it more powerfully on one simple channel taking full advantage of its unique capabilities–the brand experience needs to transpire and capture.
Functionally, the alignment of PR, marketing, sales, and relationship management will be of greater importance as organizations tell the stories of the brand. It’s not about hard selling, pitching, and marketing speak—it’s about transparency, trust, value, relevance, and practical solutions. These groups will need to work closely together to bring the best of the brand to clients and prospects in the most effective and impactful way.
Content continues to be king, but as mentioned above, the quality and specificity of when, where, and how will evolve. Consumer expectations are increasing. The bar has been raised for brands to push out less junk and clutter.
The integration of video, audio, imagery, customization, personalization, and more across the digital landscape will impact whether a story lives or dies. Consumers want to interact with brands online and through multiple devices. Visual storytelling must engage audiences in new ways, but not just for viral flash or short-term visibility. Content creators must develop, package, and share stories that drive greater value, deeper meaning, and extended longevity, awarding higher returns on content investment.
Good content strategies will no longer be about a constant flow of chatter, but instead will be about smart, powerful, engaging, and useful stories that are part of a more holistic experience.
Not surprisingly, mobile technology continues to build momentum. Users access most of their content via mobile devices, yet many of us still think of desktop delivery as a primary mechanism for engagement.
As we develop new campaigns, stories, and social shares, it will be critical to think in the context of the mobile experience first. How does it look, feel, appear, interact, and integrate? Does it engage and invite? Or is it long and complicated, flat and one-dimensional, or just too difficult to access?
The collection of wearable tech items will likely take off, so this brings an entirely new dynamic to the brand experience. Good companies will examine the expanding landscape of wearable tech and innovate in how they might best leverage the brand experience. Next year will be just the beginning.
New channels may come and go, but good brands will likely keep a narrow yet comprehensive selection based on where their target audience spends their time, and how they want to engage. It’s not about joining everything new that hits the market, but being strategic about what’s used now, versus how new ones might be introduced into a mature and robust framework.
As the landscape grows, so does the sophistication of brands, clients, employees, and other key stakeholders. Great brands will want employees leveraging their social currency positioning themselves as valuable brand ambassadors. This means that social media policies must continue to evolve at a rapid pace. Good legal counsel will stay on top of the challenges and the technologies, but also the many benefits associated. They will partner with the PR team on how they can best support stronger involvement with better policies that are still designed to protect the organization’s reputation.
Building on much of what’s above, employee communications now has a chance to innovate as well. The execution of the ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) model by finance and IT departments has meant huge expense reductions for most companies. While it’s created some complexities for device management, it’s also enhanced the possibilities of mobile and mobile apps for employee communication and engagement.
An increase of a virtual workforce produces many challenges for delivering critical information in a timely manner. The result is low engagement, distrust, lack of motivation, and low morale. More companies will explore how to integrate mobile technologies and applications for dynamic communication delivery, enhanced employee engagement, effective two-way communication, and even fun and interesting learning and performance management tools using gamification techniques.
I’m excited to see how 2017 evolves and just how far brands will take themselves leveraging new tools, technologies, and strategies. What are some trends your organization might be exploring? Is there anything significant that will be at the forefront of your plans in the coming year?
Image Credit: ©iStock.com/Gewitterkind
Originally published in December 2015 and updated for 2017.