The changing face of communications

The passing of notes in school was always fraught with danger, but was the most effective way to getting a timely (although rarely important) message to a peer. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple for an organisation.

Communications is changing and more challenging, and there are a few key aspects we need to be aware of to have success in finding our voice in 2017.

The speed of dissemination

Whether it was a nightly ritual in front of the 6 o’clock news, or the morning coffee session with the daily newspaper, the way we used to get our news and information 10 years ago has distinctly changed.

The prevalence of smartphones has meant that as individuals we expect to access to the latest breaking news literally in the palm of our hand. We no longer need to wait until the next edition of a newspaper, magazine, or news presentation. If someone wants to know what are the breaking conversations, or find out particular information, they’re no more than a few taps of a touch screen away.  

When looking at social media channels, a regular distribution message for organisation content, Twitter has a retweet half-life of around 24 minutes with Facebook sitting around the hour and a half mark. Not only are people more keen to seek out information, but when distributing on social platforms, our content is peak swiftly, and dies out almost as quick.

From a reactive point of view, it means that we can also look to harness relevant and popular conversations. Of course, we’d want to make sure we are providing value, and have authority within the context of these conversations.

Messages worth sharing

There is a difference between a public interest story, and one the public is interested in. Due to the speed of dissemination and the rise of social sharing, it’s no longer a matter of the published telling the audience what is important; they decide.  

Creating messages which are sharable in nature means your audience, not just you, will help disseminate your content. Is it educational? Is it entertaining? Is it inspirational? This will exponentially increase the viewers of your content.

Stories are one of the most effective ways of creating a sharable message, especially on social media, as good stories are inherently. Building a narrative into key messages or content increases the chance that it will resonate, and ultimately, shared.

Visuals matter

We store 90% of our memory in images, and as such we are inherently visual creatures. Whether you’re trying to get a piece picked up by a journalist or just read by your wider audience, supporting visuals, or a fundamentally visual message, is imperative. Regardless of the location of our message, we need it to stand out.

The sheer inundation of content and messages means that using text alone is like ice skating up hill; a lot of effort for very little progress. Relevant visuals will increase retention, as well as increase the likelihood your message will be shared on social media, forwarded, or even talked about via word of mouth.

Photos, videos and graphics used to be an expensive resource, and generally resided in the realms of the bigger players. Access and affordability of hardware and software means that with a lot of planning and a little know-how, we can create, curate, or commission visuals that work.

The long and the short of it – the length debate

Goldfish are believed to have an attention span of around 9 seconds, and whilst these stereotypically distracted animals have often been the crux of jokes, a Canadian survey pinned the current attention span of humans at the 8 second mark.

This gives us a natural challenge. Snackable content, that is content with a swift message and clear call to action, allows us to gain success before our audience swim along, or perhaps just scroll down. Think infographics, and short and concise blogs or videos.

The other side of the equation are the challenges of distribution tools. Google search and Facebook’s algorithm are known to love engaging, long content. A piece of written content up around the 1,000 word mark is generally considered higher value by Google. It becomes a matter of your goals, distribution channels, and where your audience is most likely consuming this info.

Whether people are reading a newspaper, our eDM, media release, or social content, we need to grab them immediately with catch copy and visuals, and give them the info and a call to action swiftly before they swim away.

Open your wallet to open minds

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Well in the communications industry, a better question is; if you make an incredible message but no one sees it, is it an incredible message?

The answer is no. With great content we need to find ways to ensure the message is in front of the eyeballs that matter. Many a good video, blog post and other content, have rotted away in the digital annals, never to be seen by the write people.

These days there is no shortage of ways to amplify your message; paid social, native advertising, influencers and widgets can all aid you in getting your messages in front of particular segments.

Whilst paying may be seen as cheating by some, it’s an integral part of digital engagement strategies.

We’re all publishers now, such is the changing face of communications. It means we can talk directly with our end respondents, that is, as long as we’re good enough.

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