Communications seems to be getting more complex by the day. Perhaps we should make 2015 the year of simplicity. By IABC Victoria's Wayne Aspland.
If you’ve ever wondered what happens at IABC Victoria Board meetings, we can tell you it’s pretty much what you’d expect. We plan, build strategies, track progress, monitor deadlines and keep an eye on governance. All the usual stuff.
But, every now and again, we down tools and chat. We become a group of people who live and breathe communications chewing the fat about what’s happening in our industry.
One such session occurred just a couple of weeks ago when we started swapping ideas about where communications was heading in 2015.
And, in this particular chat, something very surprising happened. It didn’t take us long to realise that all our different thoughts and ideas seemed to fit neatly into two areas – the yin and yang forces of complexity and simplicity.
Our jobs are getting harder
It’s fair to say that practicing communications well can be a difficult task. And it hasn’t been made any easier over the years by the incursion of the likes of jargon and silos.
But 2014, in many ways, was the year when hard got really hard.
We saw change and transformation evolve from occasional exercises to the way we do business.
We saw the continuing rise of social media and the shrinking news cycle place ever-greater demands on our time, resources, flexibility, content skills and ability to converse. One particular feature of the year has been how quickly and easily a bit of ‘Twittercism’ can end up on the home page of news.com.au.
We saw the rapid growth of mobile and apps seriously challenge our technologies and strategic thinking.
Of course, the impact of social isn’t just hitting our external teams. On the internal side, the growing focus on enterprise social is posing significant technical and communications challenges as well. Meanwhile, the rapid growth of BYOD (bring your own device) and virtual workforces are also challenging internal publishing and communications teams.
We saw globalisation, acquisitions, and many other forces demand an ever-greater focus on diversity and the need to communicate across geographic, language and cultural borders.
We saw the rise of behavioural sciences in communications. The way this is going, a PR degree won’t suffice in the near future. We’ll all need to be psych majors as well.
And, of course, underlying all of this is the fundamental need to do more with less – a demand that’s been heavily impacting communications teams for several years now. And it’s showing no sign of slowing down.
A return to simplicity
Now, if you crave at least a modicum of peace, these are scary trends.
But don’t start gnashing your teeth or tugging your hair just yet. Because, amidst all this carnage, something else emerged in 2014. Something really exciting.
We saw how the technical and strategic integration of communications helps us to simplify the way we communicate while delivering a clear, more consistent story to all stakeholders.
We saw the growth of corporate narratives show how simplifying an organisation’s story can have a profound impact on our ability to engage not just our people but everyone around us.
We saw branded newsrooms, such as ANZ BlueNotes, simplify publishing and sharing while helping us build a deeper connection not just with journalists but with everyone around us.
We saw how content markets and digital publishing suites are helping us to create richer content at lower cost and then publish that content in many places at once.
And we saw how the age-old art of storytelling can empower not just our communications but everyone they reach.
So, maybe simplicity will be the next big thing.
Maybe we’ll all start embracing simplicity as a way of not only reducing our stress levels but improving our communications as well.
I certainly hope so. I’ve got too many grey hairs as it is.