At a time when comms professionals are working to ever-tighter campaign time frames, there is demand for insights that are actionable today, not tomorrow.
But is this need being served? Is it even being recognised? Or are we being distracted by foresight and future-gazing?
In its defence, futurology is not about predicting the future, but laying out possible scenarios so that a business can consider how to react to change.
Staying ahead of the curve and coolly anticipating critical shifts is good practice.
But how many businesses truly allocate resource, or even have the time, to do it properly, without overlooking the challenges of today?
For comms teams trying to stay ahead, monitoring trends is more realistic.
They offer brands endless opportunities to stay relevant… that is, when they are properly researched.
Yet, because the trend industry is always promoting new trends, their output can often feel more sensationalism than solution. FOMO, JOMO, YOLO – which is it?
For professionals who haven’t the time for either of these, there’s always the event format – with its promise to showcase all the sexy new ideas that would be, should be or could be tomorrow’s big thing in one short sharp hit.
Rarely does a week go by without an unmissable new conference or expo hitting my inbox.
After all, who doesn’t want to hear about the future of technology and social media? Aren’t you afraid of missing out?
The trouble with trying to stay ahead is that it often comes at the cost of right now. You take time away from your today job to attend a session about your tomorrow job.
You head back to the office feeling stimulated, excited and inspired with new possibilities. Then reality kicks in, and business as usual resumes.
As campaign timeframes tighten, what increasingly matters to many PRs is grounded, actionable insight that can be used right now.
Therein lies the problem – it is not that foresight, futures and trends aren’t useful. On the contrary – it’s that they aren’t delivered in a way that’s useful. Often, they are too removed from the daily reality.
The McDonald's comms chief recently said that he believes the business should always be half a step ahead of its customers. A full step ahead would probably be too far. That’s insight worth listening to.
We should always be anticipating what’s going to happen tomorrow, but when the window to demonstrate value is ever shrinking, it cannot happen at the cost of what’s happening now.
Now more than ever, comms professionals should be demanding insight that can deliver on today, and work for tomorrow.
Sam Shaw is head of insight at Canvas8