Whatever your views on the political events of 2016 and their repercussions in 2017, it’s clear that the environment in which the world communicates and understands each other has become more volatile and unpredictable. Despite its vital contribution to the global economy, shipping often finds itself below the mainstream media radar, so potentially removed from the likes of twitterstorms and viral outrage. However, as the media landscape evolves, ignoring changes in how we speak to each other, the media and customers is no less an option than ignoring changes in the market.
Social media is now a fact of life. And for B2B organisations, Twitter is increasingly a necessary communications channel rather than a “nice to have”. But the power of Twitter is also growing and with this comes potential risk.
Many crisis communications best practices remain relevant if a twitterstorm breaks out. “Don’t overreact; acknowledge concerns; promote facts; if anything wrong was done, transparently and directly say so; welcome input,” writes Augie Ray, Customer Experience Research Director at Gartner.
This ultimately underlines the need for a communications strategy to be active, not passive. Paying attention to the communications landscape around the clock should be something that happens as a matter of course, not an afterthought once a crisis is already in motion.
The other trend that has changed the media landscape is fake news. The term , which spiked towards the end of last year, is already being broken down by analysts looking to understand the phenomenon. One writer has identified six types of fake news, ranging from parody content, to deliberately fabricated content.
Categorising fake news is one thing; protecting yourself from it is another. Addressing the idea of a ‘post-truth’ world, Lord Livermore, a partner at BritainThinks, argues that ‘understanding your audience is now more important than ever’, along with ‘the need to learn a new language that uses emotion as much as logic.’ Livermore cites ‘take back control’ and ‘make America great again’ as examples of strong messages that utilise this language. Clear, concise and consistent messages are certainly central to effective communications in any context.
The Good: How do we listen?
The good news is that the tools to respond to these challenges are already here, and in many cases, are already being used to great effect. While it was being touted as the ‘next big thing’ in communications last year, big data is already changing the way the media works.
One of the most promising measurement metrics of online behaviour is the ‘attention metric’. It’s an attempt to measure not just time spent on a site, but what happens when a viewer is on a page. It looks at how fast they scroll (slow scrolling means someone is paying attention) and where their mouse goes, in anticipation of a click.
What this means is that journalists are looking more at what gets your attention. And they are looking beyond just text and pictures to do it. This can mean interactive brackets, games, and other alternative story forms.
Not every publisher has the budget of the WSJ behind them. But it won’t be long before we’re seeing these kinds of innovation everywhere. Think about how revolutionary it was when you saw the first 360 video – now every family picnic comes with one as standard on Facebook.
Technical details like this are, of course, only one part of the puzzle. They need to be combined with strong messages, and the strategy behind content like this will always need to be combined with a human element. Using data the right way is an ever-evolving process that is a blend of art and science. Even Buzzfeed’s big data guru argues the need to “Be human”, as “some kinds of impact are not quantifiable.”
At BLUE we understand what the media wants, how they measure success, and how that changes how they work. We know the power of a good story but understand that journalists are always looking to innovate – blending art and science to better serve their readers.
By Peter Jackson, Account Manager