Samu: Digital trends in communications
Although prediction of future events can be fraught with failures, looking around the third sector job market there are some clear trends in recruitment. These can help to establish what organisations consider are their future priorities. Allied to the communications industry predictions of what our collective digital futures have in store this brief overview is designed to help both policy makers and communicators consider the working environment to come.
It is evident that as austerity and digital disruption continues so the pressures increase on workloads. The merging of job roles, particularly the functions of marketing and public relations, in seen across all sizes of organisation. This will have numerous implications for an organisations staff, not least for senior management and governance, and so prompts some initial questions.
Digital disruption is still in it’s infancy. It may have affected the consumer market in the first instance, but its influence on government services and policy developments have barely begun.
- Do your policies adequately address digital disruption?
- Are the digital strategies you have in place forward thinking or merely reflective of current practices?
These are difficult questions to attempt to answer so let’s see what this might start to involve.
The influence of social media is not going away, in fact it’s growing. Users increasingly use Twitter for their first source in news gathering, rather than traditional media sources. Facebook continues to tweak it’s newsfeed processes, becoming ever more ‘targeted’, or restrictive, depending on whose view you are considering.
- Are you enacting the ‘social’ in social media, do you engage or just broadcast?
- What reputational feedback about your organisation, products and services are you obtaining from social media, and is it captured?
- Do you tailor messaging for each platform or just repeat the same information across different applications?
- Is your engagement concerned with conversation or encouraging action?
- How do you progress beyond the users filter bubble?
Video consumption is growing and now accounts for 55% of global data traffic. Forget banner advertisements (they are notoriously ineffective) if you want to get noticed now then a 5 second video is the methodology you should be considering. If it’s a vertical video, (to fit a non flipped smart phone) then all the better.
- How do you strategically utilise video?
- Is it optimised for mobile?
If email is still the primary source of your communications, especially internally, then it’s time to review your working practices. There are a variety of collaborative working solutions available that will lead to more productive development than the restrictions of email.
- Are you still overloaded with email?
- Do you utilise collaborative software to it’s best advantage?
- Are your email newsletters optimised for mobiles?
Mobile considerations should not be limited to the need to make it mobile responsive, though that’s important, the increase in mobile internet access has far broader ramifications. 73% of people globally have a mobile phone, 40% of which are smart phones. The growth is strong, but slowing. The range of services that are being developed though for mobile devices is growing.
Smart payments usage and ‘buy buttons’ are increasing as the mobile experience is increasingly consumer driven.
- Have you adopted a smart giving / smart payments solution?
- Is your website mobile responsive?
- What notifications do you send to customers / clients / staff / board members?
- Can your customers / clients / staff / board members access all the information they require from a mobile device?
The Internet Of Things (and its derivatives)
The connection of ‘everything’ to a digital address, to monitor and exchange data is perhaps the most looming digital trend. If you are unaware of this then the IOT council (think-tank) is a fine place to start.
- Are you addressing the privacy and security issues IOT raises? If not when – it needs to be soon.
- Are your policies considering the connectivity ecology demands to enable IOT?
- Is your organisational culture adapted for the growth of IOT?
- Are your communications prepared for the new transparency that IOT will foist upon individuals and organisations?
Customer services are being transformed by digital disruption. Not only are corporate call centres are rapidly changing, but the opportunities to provide customer services that were once only possible to larger companies are now available to SMEs and individuals.
- Have you deployed digital customer service support that can deliver quick, non-queued solutions to common requests?
- Is your contact management database still flat?
- Do you data mine your contacts for marketing information?
- Do your customer engagements inform your policy developments?
- Do you accept on-line payments?
- Can your customers retrieve their invoices through a portal?
- Have your due diligence needs been met sufficiently by digital services?
Are you a digital organisation or still primarily paper based? This question is easiest answered by considering staff management.
- Do you have a digital human resources system?
- Are staff training, handbooks and other materials available on mobile devices?
- Is your recruitment system optimised for digital?
- Do you prioritise staff continuous development to deal with digital disruption sufficiently?
- When was the last time your organisation conducted a digital skills audit?
Analytics are only as good as the metrics chosen, the context they reside in and the tools chosen. Measuring the impact a values driven organisation is having, or the Return On Investment of your marketing, or benchmarking your organisation will not come about just by investing in the software. The analysis aspect of processing data should be used for explanatory and modelling purposes. The Intelligence aspect comes about only through asking and reporting on pertinent questions and filtering them through the analytical processes.
- Are you viewing data in real time data as well as historical?
- Are you making the best use of analysis with graphics appropriate to their audiences?
- Does your dashboard present meaningful metrics that tie into your strategic aims?
- Do you have a dashboard that reflects, monitors, and provides suitable analytic acumen for your communications strategy?
- Are you honing your KPIs down to manageable levels?
- Are your alerts established in the right places?
- Are the insights produced filtering through the organisation?
- Do you think that your organisation is too small to benefit from this corporate tool? If so it might be wise to reconsider.
Digital security breaches will be news in 2016, 2017, 2018… and for good reason. 20% of security breaches comes from internal malicious intent and 22% from lost or stolen mobile devices. Of all digital disruptions security presents the greatest amounts of risk, and the threats are increasing. Yet despite a large selection of security products, a security breach often takes months to establish and years to ameliorate.
- How often are your security policies reviewed?
- How do you enact them?
- What contingency communications strategies do you have in place when faced with security threats?
- What backup systems do you have if a security breach is discovered?
This is the tricky part for many organisations, what are the budget implications for mitigating and making best use of digital disruption? How can my small scale charity, co-operative, social enterprise best cope? To me this is really a question of smart prioritisation. Companies need to constantly review ICT usage. It is not wise, profitable or strategically useful to constantly upgrade, change applications and add unnecessarily to the layers of digital disruption. But the disruption does present opportunities, for instance to switch to quality Open Source applications, many of which are so similar to the commercial offerings that they require minimal training.
Budgeting should be pragmatic, and whilst loyalty to a particular service provider, brand of computer assembler (they are rarely manufacturers) or software company may have at one time seemed prudent, now such practices are increasingly questionable. With a pragmatic and strategic approach to the ICT requirements that facilitate your communications needs your costs can be cut and your returns increased, but that won’t always be the case. If you have traditionally under-invested in security, or staff development (two of the most common areas) there can be budgetary implications, but it’s best to know now than to wait before the next wave of digital innovation disrupts your business model, or challenges the delivery of your mission statement.