The expanding ecosystem
The information noise is louder, more complex and multi-channel, therefore, expanding the communication ecosystem. The barrage of tweets, posts, updates, blogs, Instagram’s, etc., that find their way to us is unending. We are constantly forming perceptions directly or indirectly through our own experiences and through those who influence us. This includes our friends, colleagues and by extension, their networks. It also includes the influence of journalists, bloggers, analysts, subject matter experts, social and business czars and social media influencers.
Evolving role of practitioners
As communication practitioners, managing campaigns in a cluttered and complex environment can be daunting or wonderful, depending on how quickly, creatively and effectively we respond to the conversations that impact the brand, its ecosystem and stakeholders. In the days before the internet, and especially social media, communication was the privilege of large companies with hefty marketing budgets. Today even a brand-of-one, be it a management guru or an industry veteran, can capture a massive following on social media.
Five to seven years ago, media relations was the dominant skill set of a corporate communication professionals but today, that skill has moved from dominant to prominent and is gradually moving towards important but not critical.
Now, a communication professional needs to be involved in how the story is meaningfully told to stakeholders and how engagement is enhanced. Ignoring these and continuing with the old norms of talking rather than getting involved with stakeholders is no longer a choice. New platforms give us many more opportunities to be part of the conversations and build trust as brand custodians. The flipside is that the vulnerability of a brand has never been higher. For those of us in the business of communications, this scenario raises our role to a whole new level.
In the new scenario, speed of engagement, volume of conversations and contexts are rapidly changing. In order to manage an effective and impactful campaign, we need a quick and comprehensive understanding of the environment, an exhaustive scan of the conversations and the ability to anticipate opinions that are being crafted by influencers — by traditional as well as new media. Simply put, a favourable tweet or succinct blog by a role model could do more for a brand than scores of print or online articles lauding the product and features.
Channels of choice
Hand in glove with this requirement is the need for us to designate the communication channel of choice for the greatest impact, which depends on where the target audience is.
The potential number of influencers and the number of channels to reach out to the audience are large and still growing. It is imperative to have an insight into the most influential people, the most effective channels, the most impactful platforms and the most crucial opportunities. Alongside, an in-depth understanding of the competitive landscape and delivery of predictable as well as measurable outcomes is essential. Knowledge and decisions around these elements can make or break a campaign.
This complexity cannot be managed unless we develop teams that have diverse skill sets ranging from storytelling to influencer relations (which includes traditional media), business comprehension, and research and analytics, along with other skills that intuitively may be unrelated to the communication business. The more multi-faceted the team, the better equipped it is to unlock insights in order to enable a smooth, timely, and relevant flow of impactful information to the ecosystem and stakeholders.
The tough news is that there are no easy, one-size-fits-all solutions. The reassurance is that for the ingenious and adaptable practitioners, the choices to reach out and engage with target audiences have multiplied along with the stakes. Now is the time for communication professionals to embrace change and move forward.
Chetan Mahajan, Co-MD, MSL Group India