2017 Is the Year for Organizational Communications to Get Less Fluffy

In 2017, I predict (organizational) communication movements from consumer or staff self-expression to collective concerns; private niche to societal norms and values; staged promotions to solid information; thought leaders to action takers.

In the world’s political and business sphere, in many ways 2016 has been quite horrific, between civil wars, masses of migrants, elected leaders deposed, xenophobia, cultural and trade barriers going up, precarious employment and organizational scandals (such as Volkswagen, Wells Fargo) or missteps (e.g., the mishandling of the Samsung recall and revelations of a less-than-stellar internal culture), and so on.

Yet in the midst of all of this global turmoil, so many organizations appeared to stick their collective head in the sand and market like it was business as usual, focusing on tactics such as user-generated content and appealing to determined “influencers” to get on board and essentially help to hawk goods or services. Often these programs were aimed at the huge cohort known as millennials, despite the fact that most of the wealth and buying power continues to be held by their parents and grandparents’ generations – particularly the women of those generations, estimated to be responsible for around 80 per cent of all major purchase decisions.

I believe we will witness a lot of self-correction in 2017

In light of what has gone on throughout 2016, I believe we will witness a lot of self-correction in 2017, with the recognition of a need to operate within the world, rather than a bubble of self-contained commerce – or else be judged as shirking responsibility and lacking a moral authority, also known as a licence to operate. (In a recent article by Robert Phillips, Post Truth, Post Trust, Post PR: The crisis of trust is a crisis of leadership, he calls it “public leadership” and “public value”- which fits in nicely with the “reputation, value and relationship building” remit of organizational public relations.)

Quite possibly the desire for more gravitas in one’s worldview in 2016 is a reason for the decreased use of social media stalwart platforms like Twitter and Facebook—at least for marketing purposes and at least in regards to younger generations—although the use of hashtags on Twitter for trending news or political or charitable endeavours I believe will continue to rise in 2017, by journalists and citizens alike.

LinkedIn, on the other hand, appears to be gathering steam as a “professional” social network, particularly in the B2B realm and particularly for those in their late 30s and older.

My predictions for trends in 2017—at least for the savvy organizations—is a recognition that we live in less fluffy times, and accommodate the communication strategy (the why and what of things) accordingly.

This means that we will see fewer selfies and individually preoccupied videos (UGC) related to mass consumerism, and more of a focus on the collective concerns, both of employees in an organization and the company’s place in the actual communities, sectors and country (or countries) within which it operates.

This could include commentary on what wider-reaching thinking and actions an organization agrees with and those of which it does not. For example, the UK’s decision to leave the EU (Brexit) may impact profoundly the operations of many businesses and organizations. How British companies plan to go forward and how they predict both negative impact and potential opportunities, will be quite telling.

Think solid business information to assist or at least help inform various stakeholders, rather than “content marketing.”

Additionally, consider what is your organization’s role in the greater world, rather than trying to build a “brand” community.

Discover more trends to follow in 2017

Corporations will need to admit and recognize that profits to shareholders aren’t everything

In 2017 I think corporations will need to admit and recognize that profits to shareholders aren’t everything, particularly when decisions are made to increase profits that result in a hit to reputations (especially in regards to questionable or even unethical business decisions) where a variety of known and unknown stakeholders—and governments and regulators—weigh in. Your organization’s reputation (and trust from a variety of stakeholders) is where the real gold lies. Many companies will have to work hard in 2017 to “un-do” actions taken in 2016 and earlier and attempt to regain trust.

On a positive note, I think in 2017 the commitment to ensuring gender parity and other aspects of diversity will increase within the workplace, particularly in respect to senior positions (i.e., the executive suites) and appointments to governing boards.

Why? Because it will be 2017.

Because it is well past the time for mindful and decisive actions by organizations regarding past inequities in regards to a whole range of areas, in a wide range of sectors and countries. And a UGC video or influencer brought on board, just won’t cut it.