3 communications trends to contemplate

Think about them now, because they're not going away.

Communicators live in a world of constant change that is affected by the rapidly evolving media landscape, the growing necessity to demonstrate PR value, and the blurred lines between paid and earned media. This is change we need to understand and navigate while learning to be agile, adaptive, and purposeful.

The media landscape can be confusing to the public, and right or wrong, its credibility is being questioned in this political climate and beyond. Freedom of the press is critical, and third-party validation by the media helps the public understand issues and allows organizations to tell important stories. There is also a growing number of niche media outlets, so knowing where to focus your PR efforts is a challenge and gauging the legitimacy of the new media is often difficult. The basics still apply, but be sure to do your homework, know your audience, and use caution as you consider using new media to tell your story.

Secondly, understanding the true value of PR is critical as we see a growing and competitive content-development environment within companies that exist and digital marketers often consider "content" as "news." Embrace the blurring lines, but understand the nuances that also appropriately separate them. News, covered by the media, provides strong credibility to an organization. Content, created by companies, provides great information to the public and your customers. Although both are very important to building brand and reputation, they are different in important ways.

Thirdly, we’re seeing a significant increase in organizations experimenting with paid editorial content that is creating opportunities and challenges. On the one hand, paid content is gaining momentum, and partnering with the media and their vast resources is appealing to organizations. At the same time, these projects are financially lucrative to the media outlet. Blurring the lines could mean that some decisions are rewarded by payment over an important issue on the earned side. Companies may benefit from different strategies. Be sure to think this through and contemplate the best approach to promote your brand and protect your reputation.

There are many other ongoing changes affecting the role of a communicator in today’s environment. Embrace the change, because it won’t go away. Do your homework and recruit the right talent to help manage through it.

Eileen Sheil is executive director of corporate communications at Cleveland Clinic. She can be reached at sheile@ccf.org.

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