Setting the right pace in 2010

Bye bye, 2009. We won't miss you. Enjoy the holiday season, people, because next year brings new challenges to the profession that will demand all of our collective attention and resources.

Bye bye, 2009. We won't miss you. Enjoy the holiday season, people, because next year brings new challenges to the profession that will demand all of our collective attention and resources.

Very soon in 2010 we will see an energized focus on the most essential functions of corporate communications. While companies have been scrambling to survive, and to make numbers as each quarter flew by, many employee teams have grown increasingly beleaguered.

Employee communications will need to play a critical role in 2010 to reinvigorate the workforce within a new corporate reality, which is focused on doing more with less, without sacrificing innovation. And of course these internal efforts dovetail perfectly with corporate reputation initiatives that reach external stakeholders. From employees to investors, those truly committed to a company's vision will be looking for more than just a healthy balance sheet, but also for signals that corporations have assimilated a global economic shift while bringing new ideas to market.

Agencies face the same challenge. In a world where marketing disciplines are all competing for the same thin slice of budget, driven in part by the need to grasp and assimilate the social media frontier, there has never been more need to show true differentiation. Insight based on analytics is one route, and that requires investment up front. PR firms need to demonstrate they can help their clients anticipate what is coming, not just react to what is here.

Within agencies, account people are tired, and the last thing your overwrought clients need to deal with is turnover on their business. Retention of key staff will come into even greater focus in the new year, particularly if the much-hoped-for jobs recovery begins to stick. We are seeing signs of new life in hiring now, and firms that wait too long to incentivize stars as well as the most reliable non-stars, will find them exiting at early opportunities.

Finally, the industry will have a whole range of key topics to bone up on, in order to remain strategically relevant in the social media space. Privacy, as discussed in this week's editorial, is only one issue that has the potential to derail not just one plan, but a whole category of PR enterprise that is still emerging and taking shape.

In 2010, taking these smaller but wiser teams forward will depend on a perfect combination of experienced-based insight and analytics-fed inspiration. The PR industry must run toward these challenges, just like an outfielder charging for a fly ball that could drop in for a hit. Just remember, it's a long game.

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