7 thoughts on communications for 2014

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The turn of the year when you’re meant to look forward and make resolutions is well behind us.

Even that bit at the start when everyone dries out and acts miserable is over, so a few state of the nation observations are probably now (over)due.

As I’ve said in the past I’m firmly in the Paul Gascoigne school of predictions (I don’t make them……and I never will) but here are a few random thoughts on comms, PR and the future.

#1 Things to do when you’re dead.
Every week I read that something else is “dead”. If it’s not Facebook, it’s the news release or the campaign or content marketing or the newspaper industry. Certainly things are changing and the pace of change is accelerating rapidly but to my mind none of these things have expired. The news release and solid, proactive marketing campaigns are evolving, but are nowhere near moribund just yet.

#2 Bouncebackability
Resilience is quickly becoming the most important trait – certainly in the public sector. It’s much easier said than done, but the ability to pick yourself up and go at it again, is something we’re all having to get better at as numbers and budgets fall while demand grows. For many it has a personal impact as they re-apply for jobs in what is now an annual restructure.

#3 Measurement & impact
This is the one vital PR ingredient that we should all be doing and in fact we now have no excuse for not doing. There’s so much data and information now available the challenge is no longer using it, but deciding which metrics to use. I now have a monthly dashboard that measures the most important outputs for us as a team and more and more of it is based on social and digital measures. Over the year these statistics not only measure what we’re doing in communications and which things work, but also have a big impact on what we actually do (or stop doing) as a team in the future.

#4 The rise and rise of mobile
Encouraging online transactions and making sure people can use our website effectively is now one of our major priorities and our ‘Save Time, Do it Online’ campaign has been a big part of helping the organisation improve at this. One thing that has amazed me is the speed of mobile and tablet growth. In the last quarter 49% of people accessed our website using a mobile or tablet and that’s really shaping our views not only on design but also the type of information we use.

#5 Money, money, money
Sadly in local government at the moment I get the sense that the Churchill quote from El Alamein is probably pretty apt, despite an upturn in the economy nationally. As far as I can see when it comes to the cuts this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning. In our small corner of the country we need to save another £130m on top of the £190m we’ve already saved since 2009.

#6 Media coverage
This may be anecdotal but for us levels of media coverage are going up, not down in spite of the stuff happening to that industry. What we have noticed as the media continues to fracture is a much wider variation of stories and subjects. In 2013 our council featured in the news media 4,698 times – that equates to more than twelve stories for every day of the year.

#7 Mind the gap
Another thing we’ve noticed is an increasing gap between what the media want from us, what our friends and followers talk about on social and what residents search our site (and google) for. What this means I don’t know, but to me it tells us that the mass audience is diverging and splintering into many, many niche audiences with their own interests and questions (perfect for social).

I’d love to hear your thoughts, especially if you’re working in local government.

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