As I put on my future-focus lens for our annual Red Sky Summit (an event bringing clients, partners and peers together to inform, improve and inspire) earlier this month, several key themes emerged.
One being that as we approach 2016, we're still waiting for several of the predictions for 2015 to emerge:
- The impact of the IoT (Internet of Things) on our health and home, and how technology communicates with us, for us and about us
- Mobile ubiquity and how the mobile-first approach to digital design and development is impacting our channels of communication
- The Millennial effect, and how this digital-native generation is driving change in buying behavior, brand loyalty and communication
In looking toward 2016, it isn't so much about the widgets we can identify as gaining relevance, but rather the sentiments and motivators driving how communication will evolve. Let's call them the ABCs:
Authenticity and transparency
Get ready, folks. There is a word that may soon become as annoying to the masses and those of us who inhabit the communication world as #blessed has become to me.
In any of its various forms — authentic, authenticity, authentically — it will infuse our vernacular even more in the coming year as individuals, brands and organizations strive for deeper, more meaningful and more relevant connections and content.
The rise of authenticity and its partner, transparency, stem from the access we are continually gaining to nearly any information we want at any time. With this access comes an expectation of being able to see behind the curtain, to get the full story, to learn what a product or company or person is really about — but on our terms and on our schedule. To fully embrace the expectations with transparency we increasingly have, companies will need to get comfortable with pulling back the curtain, over-communicating and doing so clearly and concisely.
As Hubspot CTO & Founder Dharmesh Shah shared, "Today, power is gained by sharing knowledge, not hoarding it."
Authenticity and transparency are tough to put into action if you're not clear about who you are. In the wise words of Simon Sinek, start with "why." People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it. So what's your "why?" What is your brand purpose? What is that compelling reason you or your organization exist in the world? It's more than a product or service, and it should inspire an emotion or reaction and infuse everything you do.
Discovering that purpose, your epic cause of existence, helps with the last component of what's impacting the world of communication going forward. If the early part of the decade found everyone embracing all the bright, shiny objects that the digital realm dreamt up, 2015 was the year of content overload. As we head into 2016, the focus will be on making that content more compelling — and creating opportunities for brands to be publishers, for traditional media to work hand in hand with brands and for consumers to have multiple organizations competing to be their trusted source and curator.
"We see what you're trying to share with us, but why does it matter? Give me context, give me a compelling reason to click, consume and care about it."
Admittedly, the word "content" has always gotten stuck in my throat because "storytelling" has always felt more genuine and natural in regard to how we communicate and connect. And while I'm a big fan of acronyms that make sense and a believer in the power of alliteration, I still hold true to the axiom: all stories are content, but not all content is a true story.
Brands as Publishers | Publishers add Branded Studios
We're seeing a shift in action. Brands are becoming their own publishers. A few examples we showcased at our Summit were Chase and its news and story platform, MakerBot's video story series, and Goldman Sachs' Our Thinking channel (particularly the Millennial interactive infographic). The traditional media is also jumping into the fray and establishing content studios to further blur the lines between news and advertising. These outlets include the Associated Press Content Services, New York Times T Brand Studio, Forbes Brand Voice, The Atlantic Re:think, Conde Nast 23 Stories and CCN's Courageous Studio.
While some see this as hell freezing over, I'm with Lewis DVorkin of Forbes who noted, "Audiences want and value informative content from knowledgeable parties — that includes journalists, topic-specific experts and marketers. By clearly identifying the source you enable the reader to understand the filter through which the content was created."
As for those competing for the filter and curator crown, Twitter finally launched its Project Lightning (called Moments), Facebook is upping its Instant Articles game, Apple is trying to keep pace with its reworked News, and now Google is getting into the mix with its Accelerated Mobile Pages Project.
The reason everyone is striving to be our source is because we are evolving to become "liquid consumers" of information. As Randall Rothenberg described in AdWeek, "The consumer is no longer grounded in one spot, one medium or one homepage — but has become a "liquid consumer" that demands "liquid creativity" from marketers, publishers, agencies or anyone who wants to find them."
It's a fascinating, challenging and amazing time to be both a consumer and a creator. While our opportunities to connect and make an impact grow, so do the barriers and challenges to cut through the noise with stories that matter. I say: Bring. It. On.
Several of the ideas we discussed at our Summit came from the insights of our peers. We're fortunate to partner with some of the most brilliant, creative minds in Boise. So we're launching Partner Perspectives, a bi-weekly feature highlighting our partners’ observations on the ever-evolving world of communication — everything from what they’ve learned in the past year to what we can expect in the near future. Up first is Jane Naillon of See Jane Brand Strategy, who muses on the need for businesses to define their brand culture to stand out in a crowded marketplace.