A headhunter’s take on trends in communications


As specialised headhunters, we’re always on top of the latest trends in the communications business. Part of our job is to determine what types of skills, experience and personality someone needs to implement these trends successfully.

Below are four trends we have identified over the past six months, both in the corporate world in the Netherlands and elsewhere and in various non-profit organisations.

The primary focus will be on creating clear and consistent content and messages, and on structuring these processes

1. Integrated Communications 3.0
In order to build and retain a solid reputation as an organisation operating in a digitally transparent world, you need to adopt a fully integrated communications strategy: a consistent approach that extends across all channels and professional disciplines. The good news is that this means we can finally tear down the artificial barriers – which were always inherent to our field – between public affairs, media relations, marketing communications, internal communications, financial communications, and other sub-disciplines. The primary focus will be on producing clear and consistent content and messages and on structuring these processes. This is driven by a variety of factors, including a growing awareness among CEOs (including many younger executives) that an organisation’s reputation cannot be manufactured through communications or ‘fixed in post’. An organisation’s reputation is determined by its actions, values and principles, and how it chooses to communicate on these principles, values and actions. The Corporate Communications Director 3.0 is therefore someone who is actively involved in shaping the organisation’s strategy and serves as a trusted advisor to the board. All this is encapsulated perfectly in this article from the US website communication-director.com.

It’s vital to use a coherent message to orchestrate and structure the connection between the various channels.

2. Chief Content Conductor
We have seen an exponential growth in recent years in the number of digital channels and touch points that allow organisations and their target audiences to communicate with each other. Many organisations have focused on optimising these channels in recent years, with content marketers looking to use each individual channel to communicate effectively with their target markets. With the optimisation process now completed, 2016 will be the year of orchestration. You see, your target demographic is using a growing number of channels, sometimes virtually simultaneously, making it essential to create a coherent message to connect these various channels. This has created the need for an all-new role: Chief Content Conductor. Of course, that’s easier said than done, as it requires that we stop thinking strictly in terms of individual channels and need to start using new structures. We have observed this role – at various levels of seniority and under various job titles – in both the corporate world and in government. You can find a clear description of the phenomenon in this article (In Dutch).

Brand and reputation are inextricably linked and – provided they are well managed – they can really enhance each other

3. Reintegration of marketing and communications
Whereas we had seen a growing gap between these two fields in recent years – with marketing being concerned with the brand and corporate communications with the licence to operate and reputation – this chasm is starting to close. This is both natural and necessary, as brand and reputation are two sides of the same coin – in fact, they can actually enhance each other if they manage to work well together. McDonald’s Corporation announced earlier this year that it would be merging its marketing and communications departments, and way back in 2010 the President of Corporate Communications & Marketing at Siemens US published this article – still very much relevant today – advocating the same thing.

Employees are a brand’s hard-core fan base

4. Employees as ambassadors
A growing number of organisations are realising that their own employees are their brand’s strongest and most loyal fan base. While the early days of social media saw a deluge of codes of conduct and protocols advising employees of the do’s and don’ts of social media etiquette, businesses today are starting to realise the value of using their own people as brand ambassadors. This phenomenon of ‘employee advocacy’, as it’s called, is perfectly exemplified by footwear and apparel company Reebok, which is aware that the majority of its employees fall into their key demographic. Don’t be afraid, but facilitate and then let go!

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