Note: the following article recently appeared in Catalyst, the official publication of IABC. I wanted to share the piece as it offers helpful content. I serve on the board of IABC Los Angeles (IABCLA).
By: Elizabeth Williams, ABC, FRSA, and Mike Atkins, CPC
Even before the pandemic challenged our notions of, well, everything, consumer trust was on
the decline. According to one study, only 27% of Canadians trusted large corporations in
2020[i], and more than half[ii] believed business leaders purposely misled the public. That
said, 86%[iii] also expected these leaders to be speaking out on important social issues.
Yet in its annual ranking of the most trusted brands in Canada, the Gustavson School of
Business[iv] identified some brands that had seen big gains in 2020. We wanted to
understand why five brands — Astro Yogurt, President’s Choice, Interac, Quaker Oats and
Lego — saw big year-over-year gains in trust, so we analyzed their public-facing
communications on social media, press releases and websites from March to December 2020.
Early, Often, Authentically
Spoiler alert: The brands that built trust communicated early, often and authentically in the early weeks of the pandemic.
For example, President’s Choice, the upmarket store brand for Canada’s biggest grocery chain, was an early mover when supply chains were uncertain and conflicts over public health mandates were being waged in supermarkets. The company’s CEO, usually visible for seasonal product launches, was front and center in a series of videos posted to Facebook and Instagram, reassuring consumers that its inventory was secure and reminding them to be kind to essential retail workers. During Black Lives Matter protests in May 2020, the company also made a large donation to support Black businesses. The brand climbed 10 spots in the ranking for 2020, whereas its competitors moved little.
Astro Yogurt was also quick to address concerns about food supply, sharing Facebook messages about its support for Canadian dairy farmers and its production workers who were continuing to move products through the supply chain. The brand also switched up its consumer messaging from sales promotions to healthy eating habits during the first lockdowns, inviting followers to participate in online contests. The brand climbed an impressive 60 places to rank 10th overall. Again, it was the only brand in its category to see a significant year over year rise.
Lego may seem an obvious brand builder among families struggling to entertain bored kids during the first lockdowns, but we don’t see the same trust growth among other toy brands, suggesting Lego went a bit further to move from sixth to third place. Indeed, we saw the company’s social media and web messages initially reassure consumers that their products would be easily available. Plus, the brand shared regular building ideas families could try at home. It also announced a new Lego brick made out of recycled plastic in June 2020.
Quaker Oats stood out among other cereal brands, not just because of its wholesome comfort but through its messaging about support for global food supply chains and donations to local food programs. Additionally, in the weeks following the killing of George Floyd, the brand announced it would discontinue its controversial Aunt Jemima brand, which we believe contributed to its 16-point jump in the rankings.
Interac is a Canadian technology company that enables consumers to use their credit and debit cards at multiple merchants through multiple banks. Other than an annual holiday campaign touting the safety of retail debit transactions, it’s a relatively obscure brand for consumers. In 2020, however, Interac was highly visible on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn with two sets of messages: One reassuring consumers, many of them new to ecommerce, about the safety of online transactions and offering tips for cybersecurity; the other celebrating its newly remote workforce and its successful transition to new ways of working during a period of rapid growth, helping it claim fourth place in the ranking, a 12-spot gain.
Other brands secured their supply chains, supported their employees and gave generously to communities and causes in 2020; why did these five brands build trust and others in their categories didn’t?
Let’s step back and look at the elements of trust. According to research[v], individuals decide whether or not to trust others based on three things:
These principles apply to brands as well, but consumers also weigh their alignment with the brand’s values, their functional trust in the brand and their existing relationship, if any. These elements define brand trust. And in our assessment of the messages, we saw that the five brands here:
In the case of President’s Choice, the brand’s messages clearly articulated an ability to keep their stores stocked, their benevolence toward their customers, communities and employees, and their track record of delivering on promises. Astro’s focus on benevolence toward essential agricultural workers and consumers, and demonstrated ability to keep dairy products moving, added to the integrity demonstrated with its employee recognition.
Interac also recognized its employees and doubled down on ability by providing a steady stream of messages about fraud prevention and the safety of cashless transactions.
Not many brands would choose a time of racial tension to shine a light on their own problematic brand. Yet in announcing the retirement of its Aunt Jemima brand in 2020, Quaker Oats deftly demonstrated its benevolence toward racialized communities and backed it up with substantial financial support to Black Lives Matter. When we analyzed the social media responses to the announcement, we had expected at least some commentary on the timing but found almost all comments to be positive and supportive.
Similarly, Lego’s announcement that it had developed a brick made from recycled plastic, in addition to its donations to children’s charities, demonstrated benevolence. Along with signalling ability through its stream of building ideas, and integrity through its steady inventory, the brand built strong trust among Canadians.
Timing is another key here. We noted that all of these brands moved very quickly when the pandemic was declared in March 2020. They were actively communicating with their customers, employees and communities within days and weeks, with messages acknowledging the uncertainty of the times and the quickly shifting information and public policies.
Not Everyone’s a Winner
What about the brands that lost trust? We looked at three brands whose rankings fell substantially in 2020 and concluded they had two things in common. First, they were almost entirely silent during and about the pandemic in 2020. Two of the brands posted little or no content, while a third continued to share marketing content, apparently oblivious to the pandemic. In one case, a supermarket chain remained silent while social and traditional media castigated them for their treatment of employees and tone-deaf responses to social issues. Most of these brands did take actions that demonstrated ability, benevolence and integrity, but they didn’t go the final step and communicate it to their stakeholders.
While much has changed in two years, we offer these takeaways to help build brand trust in the future.
[i] Proof Strategies Inc., (2021). 2021 results report Proof CanTrust Index. https://getproof.com/what-we-do/cantrust/
[ii & iii] Edelman Data & Intelligence (2021). 2021 Edelman trust barometer. https://www.edelman.com/trust/2021-trust-barometer
[iv] Gustavson brand trust index. University of Victoria. https://www.uvic.ca/gustavson/brandtrust/
[v] Mayer, R. C., Davis, J. H., & Schoorman, F. D. (1995). An Integrative Model of Organizational Trust. The Academy of Management Review, 20(3), 709–734. https://doi.org/10.2307/258792
Photo: Mizuno K at Pexels.com
Note: the following article recently appeared in Catalyst, the official publication of IABC. The content was initially presented at the IABC World Conference 2022 in New York City. I serve on the board of IABC Los Angeles (IABCLA).
By: Mike Klein, Monique Zytnik and Mabongi Dlamini
One of the big challenges that we as communication professionals face is that we don’t collectively appreciate the magnitude and significance of the contributions we make to business. We don’t fully illustrate how we can convert ideas into impact. To address this we developed an IABC 2022 World Conference session — “The Superpowers of Communication Professionals” — to give our most important skills the recognition they deserve and boost the confidence of our fellow incognito super heroes who put those skills into action. We want them to be able to confidently step out into the bright spotlight and draw attention with the value that we bring.
What are the superpowers of communication professionals?
We identified 11 distinct skills that merited discussion as “communication professional superpowers,” because they move beyond the transactional production and craft skills into being able to deliver impact at scale — things like amplification (the ability to increase the reach and scale of a conversation), contextualization (the ability to put individual concerns and events into a broader story or perspective) and mobilization (the ability to get people to change behaviors and take action).
As you would expect at an IABC World Conference, we were speaking with the converted, as 92% already believed that communication professionals have superpowers to some degree. We hope with this article that you reflect on your own superpowers and take up the challenge to encourage your fellow communicators to proudly wear their powers with pride.
In recognizing our superpower-grade skills, we essentially recognize communication pros as superheroes in our own right while, at the same time, noting that we also need to look at how we deploy these superpowers and respond to blockers that keep us from achieving superhuman success.
Click here for the remainder of the story.
The following article was inspired by IABC Seattle’s recent webinar, “Communicating a Mentoring Culture.” It recently appeared in Catalyst, the official publication of IABC.
I wanted to share the piece as it offers helpful content. I serve on the board of IABC Los Angeles (IABCLA).
By: Lisa Z. Fain
In a nod to the widely accepted truth that mentoring has tangible benefits for mentors, mentees and organizations, more than 71% of Fortune 500 companies now have mentoring programs. For many of these companies, however, mentoring is just that — programmatic.
Outside of the formal mentor/mentee relationship, there is little commitment to leveraging the benefits of mentoring for the greater organizational good. This means that companies are leaving potential benefits on the table by limiting the rewards of mentoring to the few who are participating in a formal mentoring program. For organizations to take full advantage of the benefits of mentoring, they must develop a mentoring culture.
What Is a Mentoring Culture?
Ultimately, mentoring is impactful because it fosters learning, encourages development and creates connection. According to Dr. Lois J. Zachary, author of “Creating a Mentoring Culture,” mentoring creates more organizational resiliency in the face of change and contributes to organizational stability by managing knowledge and facilitating communication. To create a mentoring culture, mentoring must be embedded into an organization’s ecosystem, which is where communicators come in.
Here are three ways for communications professionals to promote a mentoring culture:
1. Create Anchors. To make mentoring stick, it must be connected to the cultural attributes and established systems in the organization. To do this:
2. Talk about it. To create a mentoring culture, employees must trust that their organization has a commitment to the development of and creation of space for mentoring. Build the following into your communication strategy for leadership.
3. Foster Community. There are no better ambassadors for a mentoring culture than people who are already committed to mentoring in some way. Harness the enthusiasm and momentum of current mentors and mentees by creating a sense of community. Here are three ways to do this:
Like any systemic change, creating a mentoring culture happens gradually, with time and intention. Communication is a key component of this change. These tips will take you far.
Image: Nappy via Pexels.com
Lisa Osborne Ross of Edelman spoke during the 2022 IABC World Conference.
Note: The following overview of the 2022 IABC World Conference recently appeared in Catalyst, the official publication of IABC. I wanted to share the article as it offers several communications insights. I serve on the board of IABC Los Angeles (IABCLA).
By: IABC Staff, Featuring IABC Members
After an inspiring four days in New York City attending educational sessions and connecting with colleagues from all over the globe, IABC World Conference 2022 attendees have a plethora of words to fill in the blanks of “Communication can…”
With so many sessions and opportunities for relationship-building, communication professionals added a wealth of knowledge to their toolboxes and new connections to their LinkedIn feeds. Here’s a glimpse of key takeaways from conference participants:
We’ll Meet You in the Metaverse
The metaverse was a key topic of interest at #IABC22. How will it impact the future of the communication profession? How do you even define the metaverse?
Megan Thomas also found inspiration in these immersive technology-related sessions. “While the robots aren’t quite coming to get us yet, with the metaverse potentially creating a $13 trillion economy over next three years, we need to prepare for another change in technology,” Thomas says.
“Business models will evolve as organizations seek to create ‘digital twins’ in the metaverse.”
Still, Thomas sees the use of augmented reality, virtual reality and immersive technologies as a prime opportunity for communication professionals. “In 10 years’ time we’ll still be asking, ‘How can communication be used to achieve an objective?’ And connecting humans will still be at the core of the communication profession,” Thomas says.
Get hundreds of communication professionals in one convention center, and you’re sure to witness several mic-drop moments. Joe Bobbey shares his favorite with Catalyst.
“One mic-drop moment was when Zora Artis, chair of the IABC 2022 World Conference, rallied attendees to stop calling ourselves communicators: ‘We are communication professionals,’” Bobbey says. “Many speakers provided inspiration for us to demonstrate our value and our elevated role in advancing our organization's value. Closing keynote speaker Lisa Osborne Ross brought it to a crescendo saying ‘This is our time.’ We have a seat at the table we didn't have before. She urged us to keep solving problems, taking action and making change.”
Jill Vitiello found similar inspiration in opening keynote speaker Frank Shaw’s presentation. “[Shaw] made a point that stuck with me. He noted that communication professionals need to ‘speak out, connect and negotiate,’” Vitiello says. “These leadership skills are our focus for enriching the employee experience in our organizations.”
Accessibility Is Key
Accessibility is a recurring theme at the IABC World Conference. How are you ensuring your communications are accessible to all?
Donna Itzoe found Matisse Hamel-Nelis’s presentation to be immediately applicable. “One significant learning I can put into practice today is ensuring that all our linked documents and social graphics require the same accessibility diligence as our web content,” Itzoe says. “I've already shared this with our content, social and web teams.”
Communication Can … Influence Culture
Communication professionals create culture, and there was no shortage of organizational culture discussion at the conference.
“Organizational culture and who takes responsibility for it is such a key topic for our current, turbulent times,” Monique Zytnik says. “Shane Hatton’s session ‘Let’s Talk Culture’ was fast paced and filled with insights based on his research. My favorite discussion was with Shane and Megan Thomas on an early morning run in Central Park. I applied his insights in an article I wrote today.”
During culture-focused sessions, Catherine Fisette was reminded that culture and communication drive each other, “especially at times of unprecedented crisis,” which communicators are all too familiar with recently.
Vitiello shares that by making a personal commitment to practice allyship in the workplace, communicators can weave DEI practices into the fabric of their cultures. “One of the best ways to get started is to craft your own story about your journey as an ally,” she says.
How is ESG making its mark on organizations? In a standing room only session, Bobbey found inspiration in how the ESG era is impacting climate, health, safety and ethical standards.
Putting the ‘I’ in IABC
IABC prides itself on connecting communication professionals from all corners of the globe. And with the celebration of the first in-person conference since 2019, IABC members were full of energy.
“The international aspect of IABC was put into exciting and sharp relief with this in-person event,” Kari McLean says. “The variety of accents, the variety of locations that attendees were from … It was so exciting to go from the middle of Ohio where I live, to talking with Takeshi Tsukiji, president of the Japan chapter, at the Dine Around. I attended Maria Jesus Villagran Cabanne’s session ‘When Culture Shapes Communication: Uruguay and the Pandemic, a Story of Success.’ I was entertained and enlightened by ‘The Behaviour Report’ presentation by my Aussie colleagues, and those incredible one-on-one conversations with people I think of as the global rock stars of IABC.”
“I’d heard about how inspiring the IABC World Conference is but never fully realized the energy, inspiration and sheer number of communication experts who gather for the event,” Zytnik says.
Vitiello says that the conference was a “keen reminder of the global scope of our wonderful network of business communication professionals.” Being part of this community, Vitiello explains, creates the opportunity to connect with thought leaders from all parts of the globe.
McLean likely speaks for many communication professionals in attendance, saying, “Being able to connect and share ideas with people from all over was energizing and kind of like drinking from a firehose. I’m glad to be able to spend time over the next weeks and months letting what I learned and observed become a part of how I approach my work going forward.”
Note: The following article on allyship recently appeared in Catalyst, the official publication of IABC. I serve on the board of IABC Los Angeles (IABCLA), and our chapter has hosted several webinars on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). I felt it was important to share the piece.
By: Jill Vitiello
Modern leaders understand the business case for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), yet many struggle to bring DEI principles to life in their companies. Allyship is the bridge between intention and action.
What is allyship? Some experts describe it as empathy in action. Allies use their privilege and power to create positive change for co-workers, neighbors and friends. Allies make it their business to become aware of social injustice. They develop allyship acumen by listening and learning from people’s lived experiences. Allies take action to correct inequity with no expectation of reward.
As professional communicators, we’re called upon to raise awareness of our employers’ DEI programs and promote them among our colleagues. Our position gives us enormous influence to drive the success of the DEI agenda. The best place from which to do this important work is from the position of allyship.
As allies, we are better equipped to listen to employees’ voices — even when what they tell us might be hard to hear. Every internal communicator has heard colleagues complain that DEI activities are merely performative; or conversely, that employees feel pressured to adopt DEI principles they disagree with. The goal of DEI activities is to create the lasting change that ensures a diverse, inclusive and equitable workplace. Communicators can influence that positive culture by becoming an ally to colleagues whose voices and concerns need to be amplified.
The greatest thing about becoming an ally is that it is a personal choice. Anyone, regardless of job title, seniority or company budget constraints, can choose to be an ally. As you consider allyship, here are three things to know right now.
1. Allyship is a journey
Many people are aware of social injustice. Those who decide to do something about it begin a journey of learning and action. The concept of allyship has its roots in the gay rights movement of the 1970s. It gained momentum in 2020 when George Floyd was murdered by a police officer. In 2021, “allyship” was the word of the year, according to Dictionary.com. Allyship may be in vogue one year and out the next. True allies believe they have a duty to stand for justice in their workplace and their community, whether or not it is fashionable.
2. Allyship is a way of life
If you’re like me, your decision to learn how to be an ally will change the way you view the world. When I decided to “seek first to understand” the lived experiences of others, I saw how my careless comments and unintentional slights deeply hurt people and, unfortunately, betrayed my own ignorance. By taking responsibility for educating myself rather than expecting underrepresented groups to do it for me, I learned mindfulness and, I hope to some degree, humility.
3. Allyship is not heroism
I’ve seen intended acts of allyship backfire when the supposed ally makes a show of defending an individual from a marginalized group against a perceived insult. Allies are not heroes, swooping in to save others from the perils of living in an unjust world. Instead, we are imperfect humans learning from others what we can do to uplift them. Perhaps the most sensitive part of allyship is learning what actions are meaningful to the people you want to support. Allies make mistakes and learn from them.
I believe that the more allies we have in the workplace, the more our DEI initiatives will thrive. Data collected by global management consulting firms and other employment authorities clearly show that companies with diverse workforces, inclusive business practices and equitable policies outperform those that do not prioritize DEI and embed its principles into their culture.
Companies that make DEI a business imperative are off to a great start. Companies that encourage their leaders and employees to become allies are ahead of the curve.
Image: fauxels via Pexels.com
Note: I'm the vice president of IABC Los Angeles (IABCLA), and I often provide news of communications issues, trends, and best practices. Below is an informative piece by Lisa Michel, a chapter member. She provides an overview of IABC Seattle’s recent event, “How to Be an Inclusive Leader.”
By Lisa Michel
On April 5, IABC Seattle hosted a Pro Talk with Jennifer Brown titled, “How to Be an Inclusive Leader.” Jennifer is the CEO of Jennifer Brown Consulting, an award-winning entrepreneur, speaker, diversity and inclusion consultant, and author. The conversation focused on how to lead inclusively and how leaders can communicate and give voice to employees while navigating uncertain times.
Jennifer’s path to her current career was not linear. Rather, she found consulting after her livelihood as a singer was threatened by a vocal cord injury. Now, she uses her voice to support other voices. Jennifer spoke to the IABC audience about “covering,” by which people downplay a known and stigmatized identity. Now open about her own identity as a member of the LGBTQ community, Jennifer explained that her own experiences being closeted, thus covering, led her to the field of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI).
Brown explored how covering blocks the creative process and breaks down trust, as the inability to embrace your full self in the workplace causes people to hold back. Expending so much energy to suppress can result in what Jennifer referred to as “drainage.” In a more tangible and practical sense, the shame and fear that causes covering and therefore, a lack of disclosure, can ultimately lead to attrition.
To combat these unpleasant feelings and experiences, as well as the negative organizational repercussions, Jennifer emphasized the importance of having diverse voices and representation around the table. Good leadership is inclusive leadership because it allows everyone to thrive. So how do companies go about ensuring that their leadership representation is balanced and diversified? Brown urged people to tell stories that haven’t been told and suggested that leadership pose the questions: “who are we missing?” and “who do we need to learn about?”
Further efforts include an ongoing process of re-evaluation, detailed across Jennifer’s Inclusive Leader Continuum. Phase One is “Unaware,” during which leaders may think that since they’re comfortable, everyone else must be as well. Avoidance and an inability to contribute signify this lack of awareness. Phase Two is “Aware,” at which time leaders may question how they hadn’t thought about or addressed an issue previously. Phase Three, “Active,” is characterized by a growth mindset. At this point, the leaders are ready to do something, though they may recognize it won’t be easy. In Phase Four, “Advocate,” leaders must hold people accountable and, conversely, must be held accountable by others.
Through this continuum, it is imperative that leaders are genuine and humble. This means they should go first, using storytelling to disarm, show vulnerability, and create a safe space for employees. Ultimately, leaders should personalize the process.
Jennifer posed some powerful questions:
- Consider which phase you are currently in regarding various communities and/or identities
- What concrete steps can you take to move through the continuum?
- What phases do you perhaps need to return to in order to learn more?
- What will be your key points of learning?
- Who could support you on your journey?
- What is ONE commitment you can make today?
Unfortunately, progress in the area of inclusive leadership has been slow because real commitment on a widespread scale has been sparse and mastery of these concepts and behaviors hasn’t been critical to each leader’s performance. Collectively, we can shine a light on the systemic transformations needed by naming them.
The parting note of Jennifer’s talk was that “listening” is her comms mantra. The world, and surely the workplace, would be a better place with more listening.
Image: Jennifer Brown Consulting
Note: The following article is courtesy of the IABC Trend Watch Committee, a group tasked with reporting on communications news and insights. I was fascinated by the following piece on Generation Z and content creation, and I wanted to share it. I serve on the board of IABC Los Angeles (IABCLA).
By Katie Macaulay
IABC Trends Watch Committee & IABC International Executive Board
At a Glance: as a generation of true content creators become consumers, employees and investors, we need to rethink our definition of “audience.” Generation Z is likely to be equal partners in the communication process. Our role will be to harness the passion, skills and presence of the world’s foremost content creator generation.
Trend to Watch: in 2021, TikTok reached one billion active users worldwide. The word “active” in this context is important. On most social platforms, users consume content, but on TikTok they create it. More than 80% of TikTok users have posted a video, says the marketing agency, Wallaroo. On Twitter, it is the exact opposite, according to Pew Research. Just 10% of users write 80% of the tweets.
Gen Z makes up 60% of TikTok users. Born between 1995-2012 (though the years are debated), the oldest members of this generation are now 26. By 2025, they will be 27% of the global workforce.
Previous generations can rightly be called “lurkers” on social media — they observed but rarely participated. This generation has been creating content since childhood. Many are bold, creative, self-assured media makers.
What This Means for Communication Professionals: communication professionals have known for some time they cannot control the message. The birth of the World Wide Web in 1987 democratized communication enabling anyone with a connected device to find and amplify their voice.
Nevertheless, for the last 38 years, communication professionals could safely think of their internal and external audiences as receivers of a message. While the audience was not passive – they interacted with our content, sharing and shaping it — we remained editors-in-chief.
As Gen Z comes of age, the power paradigm will shift. We will need to build mutually beneficial, peer-to-peer relationships with this cohort. Our role will be to define an overarching narrative and content framework that aligns with our organization’s strategy. Then, we will need to create playbooks and toolkits, so this content creator generation can channel their creativity for the mutual benefit of all.
Note: Catalyst is the official publication of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC). The guide features thought leadership from organization members on various topics, including innovation, business acumen, and career planning. I wanted to share this recent article on communications trends to look out for in 2022. I serve as the vice president of IABC Los Angeles (IABCLA).
As a communications professional and a futurist, I want to suggest some digital trends and events that you should keep an eye on in the coming year. Some of these are more probable than others, with a couple wild cards thrown in for good measure. Weigh them carefully and consider how they may impact your practice or the organization(s) you represent. More importantly, think about what action you should take now to prepare for what may eventually materialize — possibly to reduce risk to the organization you represent.
More Video, Please
According to the trade outlet Streaming Media, video viewing will account for 82% of all internet traffic in 2022. As virtual and augmented reality become a reality, boosted by the growth of the metaverse, video is becoming the predominant form of communication for consumers and organizations alike.
Action Step: The use of video by all types of organizations to communicate news and information, internally and externally, will accelerate in 2022 and beyond. As you develop a written piece of communication (a news release, an article, a letter from the CEO), is there a way of communicating that same information through video? If your organization doesn’t have a YouTube channel, start one now. Invest in expert videographers, editors and producers to accelerate your use of video.
All the Buzz About Newsletters
While the shiny new object may be the metaverse, the real action is in newsletters. Yes, newsletters. According to DigiDay, The New York Times has more than 70 newsletters. Readers opened more than 3.6 billion newsletter emails from the publisher in 2020 — a 150% increase over 2019.
Substack recently announced that it had reached more than 1 million paid subscribers to the newsletters and publications available through its online portal, according to Vanity Fair. Other media are discovering the power of newsletters to reach specific audiences or to boost the influence of their writers, resulting in a flurry of launches.
Action Step: This trend is likely to continue going into 2022. If your organization isn’t offering a newsletter(s) to engage your stakeholders, you may want to consider doing so. The future for all organizations is owning your owned media — and building a system to consistently develop and distribute high quality content that meets the information needs of your stakeholder communities.
In October 2021, Facebook rebranded itself as Meta in anticipation of introducing a metaverse online experience within the next few years. But Meta isn’t the only company looking at building a metaverse. Microsoft, Nvidia and even Walmart are eager to jump in and define the future of virtual reality entertainment and communications.
Action Step: What’s the No. 1 rule of real estate? Location, location, location. The rush to buy digital real estate on the metaverse has begun. In December 2021, The Metaverse Group (a different company from Meta) spent $2.43 million to buy space in the Fashion Street District of Decentraland, a virtual world where users can buy, develop and sell land. What are your company’s plans to buy space in the metaverse?
Email Is Not Going Away Any Time Soon
For years, marketers have forecasted the demise of email in favor of new technology such as text messages and social media messaging. But according to Statista, 4.3 billion people are expected to use email in 2022, and that’s expected to grow to 4.6 billion by 2025.
Action Step: If your organization hasn’t embraced an email strategy, this needs to be a priority. Email can serve as a powerful tool in communicating your organization’s message directly with people who want to stay connected.
Focus on Building Trust
According to the 2021 Edelman annual trust barometer (January 2021), fewer than half of all Americans have trust in traditional media, and trust in social media hit an all-time low of 27%.
Action Step: If customers don’t trust the media for which your organization relies upon to share its news, how can they come to trust your organization and its leaders? In this coming year, focus on building trust through media that is well respected, while at the same time using your owned media to build trust directly with customers. Owned media should be considered part of the customer experience — if customers are being let down by your sales or customer service departments, they’ll have a hard time believing your news. It’s all integrated.
Navigating the Digital Landscape to Earn Attention
According to a study announced in January 2021 by Pew Research Center, about 80% of Americans get their news digitally — from a digital news site, through a search engine, social media or a podcast. In another study conducted during the summer of 2021, nearly 50% of Americans received news, at least sometimes, through their social media.
Action Step: In an all-digital world, it will be more important than ever for communicators to invest in the development of high-quality, authentic, relevant and — most of all — trusted content that engages their respective audiences. And what is the surest measurement that what you’re doing is working? It’s time spent engaging with your content. It’s not just about attracting the attention of the consumer, it’s keeping their attention (and creating great content that keeps them coming back for more).
Introducing Your AI Corporate Spokesperson
The use of AI-built news announcers, corporate spokespersons and social media influencers is likely to expand based on the success of South Korea’s cable channel MBN, which tested an AI news announcer based on Kim Ju-ha, the network’s real-life announcer. Companies such as Synthesia.io and Soul Machines will make AI-generated talent even more accessible for branded content, news announcements, customer service interactions and more.
Action Step: As we hurdle toward a new generation of virtual communications, organizations of all types and sizes are likely to turn toward the use of AI-built talent to deliver various forms of communications (lower labor costs and increased efficiencies). Is your organization ready for this? Or do you believe, based on your organization’s values, that a real human should always deliver news, information and marketing messages?
Welcome to the Web 3.0
In the coming year, your IT folks likely will bring up the subject of Web 3.0 and how your organization needs to prepare for a decentralized web that is not controlled by a few tech companies, but instead relies on blockchain technology, machine learning and artificial intelligence.
Action Step: Work with your IT department to learn how Web 3.0 may affect your company’s internal and external communications in the future.
Note: Catalyst is the official publication of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC). The resource features thought leadership from organization members on various topics, including innovation, business acumen, and career planning. This piece on communication-related trends in 2022 recently appeared in the guide, and I wanted to share it. I serve as the vice president of IABC Los Angeles (IABCLA).
We asked members of the Catalyst Subcommittee to share their thoughts. Do you have a specific trend or goal on your mind for the new year? Join IABC members in discussion on The Hub to share your predictions and hopes for the year to come.
This year, some communicators are planning to take their work to the next level. “The scope of my consulting and coaching work will expand into corporate wellness initiatives in early 2022,” Tara Mogan Blom, MMC, ABC, says. “This pairs my 20+ years' experience in organizational communications with my work as a certified wellness coach, helping individuals and organizations to maximize overall wellbeing, happiness and productivity.”
What else is on Blom’s checklist this year? “I'm looking forward to checking SCMP certification off of my to-do list in 2022,” she says. “It's been there for a while!” Are you planning to earn your SCMP this year? Learn more about becoming an SCMP through IABC, and visit Catalyst to read members’ personal stories of how they achieved this goal.
The Evolving Workplace
As communicators continue to navigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the changing workplace is top of mind. And communicators will likely be some of the first to pose and address these questions. “As the workplace and state of work continues to evolve — especially since COVID will be with us for a while — how do we shape the employer role in determining work-life balance?” Joe Bobbey asks. “Is it employer-driven or employee-driven? How do we help leaders ensure fairness uniformly across workforce roles and responsibilities?”
With the evolving workplace also comes the influence of the Great Resignation and the employee economy. “Employees are going to be demanding multichannel communication, work delivery approaches and organizations,” Nkem Emezie-Ejinima says. “Companies will have to leverage their communications ecosystem to engage and collaborate.”
Being Proactive Professionals
Communication professionals can carve out their own seat at the executive table and seamlessly navigate across functions within their organizations. Emezie-Ejinima says this year, communicators can take a “less ‘reactive’ approach to internal communications and PR.” Likewise, Bobbey says, “We have opportunities for communicators to increase their proactive, strategic role with [the following departments]:”
- IT: Find ways to create a culture of cybersecurity that complements the latest technology solutions.
- Public Affairs: Elevate defenses against misinformation (beyond employees and customers) to broader audiences through thought leaders and public officials.
- HR: Focus an organization's value statements and corporate responsibility messages on efforts to improve employee retention and recruitment.
People- and Community-First Focus
Like years past, organizations, their people and their values will likely play a significant role in 2022. Emezie-Ejinima hopes to see a shift in how organizations and people define values. Similarly, she says that in the year to come, growth-focused businesses will leverage partnership and collaboration in an effort toward community building, sustainability and prioritizing impact-driven businesses. Finally, Emezie-Ejinima predicts that there will be a re-emergence on the individual. “There will be a strong move of ‘You Inc.,’ and every brand’s behavior is subject to public opinion and scrutiny,” she says. “There will be no hiding places for businesses and CEOs.”
Bonus Prediction: Global Energy Transition
Do you have ESG on the brain? Emezie-Ejinima predicts that in 2022, there will be more sustainable and favorable global energy transition. “The demand and supply of energy will affect technological advancement,” she says. How will communicators play a role in this? Only time will tell.
Image: fauxels via Pexels.com
I'm Eli Natinsky and I'm a communication specialist. This blog explores my work and professional interests. I also delve into other topics, including media, marketing, pop culture, and technology.