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Ten Ways Communications Will Change In 2005…

I’ve taken a shot at a few predictions for 2005 – with a particular bent towards communications and blogging. These are more a list of thoughts (some a tad repetitive), in no particular order, that I’ve been noting over the past couple of months. Here goes:-

1) Blogs become a prime-time communications vehicle. (Thought I’d start with an obvious one.) Communicators begin to grasp that blogging isn’t about ‘reach’, it’s about participating in and facilitating the building of communities. Community building becomes the new mantra for communications professionals.

For the present, most still miss this point but generating Opportunities To See (OTS) via traditional media is increasingly considered against the backdrop of the ability of blogs, RSS and direct content feeds to speak to audiences in a more meaningful way and set the news agenda.

All that talk about the death of advertising and rise of PR… it’s true. Blogs are effectively tipping fuel on this fire. A recent article on Sun said it well ~

“Opening the company up to external scrutiny by launching a raft of blogs, for example, is doing more for the company’s image than any ad campaign ever could.”

Audiences are thought of in new terms resulting in 10-20% of big budgets shifting to viral campaigns and the blogsphere. As ad budgets shift, so do communications budgets. Communicators recognize the effectiveness of cascading information from informed influencers to the mass market. A new set of ‘Super Blogs’ force communicators to invest time with rock-star bloggers.

Comms teams fund bloggers – some inside their company, some outside – to blog events, shows and happenings (happening today in some places).

And… Blogging becomes the new must-have ingredient in communications plans. Blogs break at least three of biggest stories in Tech, much to the chagrin of online sites and big media. Blogs are increasingly used to level the playing field by reporting corrections to inaccurate reporting. Blogs start to be used for the posting of interview transcripts and notes.

2) Media and audience fragmentation continues to accelerate. Podcasting. Webisodes. Blogging. Everything changes more. Traditional media’s power to reach audiences continues to be diluted by new technologies which more effectively reach target audiences. Skills transfer becomes important as communicators in all sectors start paying more attention to their colleagues in political comms and lobbying who have deep experience of grassroots communications. More big revolts happen in the blogsphere as the manipulators turn-up the noise. Less savvy communicators continue to stumble around drawing the wrath of bloggers.

3) Managing how news is triangulated becomes as much of an issue and managing the news itself. Communicators struggle with how to use, manage and monitor news aggregators who are pulling together content using either people, machines or algorithms as all the news that isn’t fit to print reaches hundreds of millions of eyeballs.

4) Company news sites become massively content-rich and important distribution vehicles. Company blogs will aggregate to the corporate news page providing stakeholders and media with a direct view of what’s going on inside. Video costs will continue to plummet driving richer content to the web. Sites start to feature streaming audio and ‘podcasting’ as a news distribution tool. Communicators start building content assets.

5) The revolution in communications procurement and supply chains continues. Agencies and consultants face more law suits related to billing. While most of these are as unreasonable as those occurring today, they force the industry to double-down on supply chain management and reporting. Dynamic bidding will become a component of 90% of all major contracts (and agencies will put up futile resistance). Agencies continue to struggle with differentiation at the highest level.

6) Measurement sophistication increases. The shift to understanding the impact of communications over the output continues. Output equals OTS while impact equals business outcomes, changing minds, influencing decisions, and moving markets. Energy shifts to the latter. The first communications dashboards start to hit the market.

7) More people get fired for blogging. But more get hired. If you are posting outside of guidelines, without consent, or without commonsense, you are asking for trouble. Debates rage over whose responsibility it is to monitor internal blogs. Dealing with blog related issues takes-up an increasing portion of corporate communicators time. More corporations create official blogs. Then they start enabling customers to blog. And, if you’re good enough, the customers even start making your advertising for you, or paying for it – expect more of this. Unfortunately too many will be “flobs” – fluffy marketing hype masquerading as blogs.

8) The First OpenSource Analysts emerge (both industry and financial). Smaller niche analysts, CIOs, sys-admins and developers start to aggregate their smarts and intelligence, providing insight, advice and content once only available from the big three. Rather than projecting the wisdom of the firm, these blogs focus on drawing knowledge out of the IT community.

9) Brand Experience becomes a major consideration for all communicators. Not branding, brand experience. Communicators will increasingly come to grips with how a company’s communications are a defining element in determining brand experience. In effect, communications is part of the product. Virgin gets this, AA doesn’t. Bad brand experiences manifest themselves more quickly and visibly in blogs and recommendation engines posing a new communications challenge for all marketers. A friend relayed a great example of this. Apparently reviews of the Ford Windstar as reported by new mothers (citizen journalists) on the Palo Alto & Menlo Park (PAMP) mothers web site are terrible – mothers telling mothers, “don’t buy one”, with all the authority of Car & Driver. The local Ford dealer is probably wondering what the hell is going on and pouring more money into advertising – all to no effect? Macro communications issues manifest themselves in micro environments courtesy of the web.

And here’s a counterview – brands become more important. As technology drives conveinence, brands have more appeal than ever. Call them what you will – lovemarks, brands, passionpoints… (yuk)… there will be more of them and more of our decisions will be driven towards them.

10) OpenSource Publishing will continue apace. Communicators will look to harness the power of their communities, aggregating blog content into a powerful, sponsored publications – some will challenge the traditional trade-media news dynamic by breaking news and providing deep insight. Long relegated to ‘last call’ status, communicators are forced to pay real attention to local media and citizen journalists backed by online-publications that give their voice a real reach. Media call-down lists will start to include bloggers.

Big prediction. We have entered the era of Participatory Communications. The ability of big media or the PR elite to control communications is on the decline. Communications power has begun to shift back to communities and will only accelerate in 2005.

So, this is a starter list – I’m also thinking through one on the technology shifts that will change the way we communicate (little more geeky). Give me your thoughts and comments. Would be great to continue building out the list.

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