the future of comms could be a labcoat, tea and cake

We know the landscape is changing. But in a few years time what will it look like? There are no definitive answers but some clues are starting to emerge.

by Dan Slee

What should the future of comms look like? It should be someone in a lab coat with a cup of tea and a slice of cake. Simple.

Why a lab coat? So you can get a bit scientific with data to understand a bit more about your task in hand.

Why a cup of tea and a slice of cake? Because you need to be human.

Put those two things together and it feels as though you stand a chance.

But there are dark clouds ahead. Iconoclastic journalist Tom Foremski who wrote the seminal ‘Die Press Release, Die, Die, Die’ at 4am after a bottle of wine predicts a future of pain, chaos and bullshit. The whole media landscape needs to be re-invented, he says, and what will emerge will be better.

But as the need to learn new skills and be inquisitive rises the risk of burnout, as one panellist pointed out, follows close behind.

What I loved about #futurecomms14 which was staged by mynewsdesk was not that it made you think. It did not have all the answers but that it pointed a way to the distant sunny uplands. The journey will be uncertain and not everyone will make it. There have been too many gimmicky comms events of late. This wasn’t one of them.

Here are 12 things you can learn from #futurecomms14.

  1. Native advertising is advertising that poses as something else. A sponsored blog post or a sponsored Facebook update that drops into your stream looking as though a friend recommended it to you, for example.
  2. Many comms people don’t realise that you open the door to social media and customer services comes walking in uninvited. You need to get good at that no matter if you are a brand, company or organisation.
  3. Data is your friend. It’ll help you refine what you are doing.
  4. Google Analytics needs to be a fundamental comms skill.
  5. While data is your friend you shouldn’t over-rely on it. Make sure a human shapes your content.
  6. I’m reminded that comms people who won’r share the sweets and allow people from outside the comms team use social media have got it wrong.
  7. I’m reminded that some of the best human comms is done by exactly those people outside the comms team.
  8. @stuartbruce is a fascinating insightful bloke. He’s from West Cumbria originally.
  9. Condescending Facebook Page is a thing of wonder. It points an accusing finger at bad content.  
  10. Understanding how the brain works and responds is a useful way to then shape video content. @stephenfollows spoke on this ever so well. We’re moved by emotion. Happy, sad, angry. These are essential to storytelling. So if you have a story to tell, use them.
  11. It feels as though we’ve reached Facebook page peak engagement. Begging people for likes, follows and shares is starting to irritate.
  12. The National Trust have cake as a key part of their engagement. People respond to cake. 
  13. 02 remain the default case study for how to handle online criticism.
  14. Trains from Euston at 23.30am that finally arrive at 3am are quite good places to write blog posts.

Dan Slee is co-creator of comms2point0.