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Communications trends provide food for thought

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A recent survey by the Institute of Public Relations raises several new thoughts for me, and confirms others.

One of the still-developing changes the survey identifies is in the style of communication – it is becoming more informal in terms of tone and delivery. Hopefully this is partially in recognition that communicators need to talk in the way audiences understand.

It is no doubt also influenced by the use of social media and its increased use in most organisations’ communications with all stakeholders.

Another aspect identified is brevity of communications – again no doubt the influence of social media and its limitations.

Unfortunately many executives still think management speak, jargon and verbosity, rather than brevity, is the way to go.

While the trends identified in the survey have clear benefits, they also have a downside.

For example, brevity doesn’t necessarily mean clarity, and can be an excuse to be opaque. Nor is a chatty or informal style right for all situations, such as in communications about serious issues.

“Yep. We’re closing down the retail division so your job’s gone. But that’s how it goes,” will never be the right style no matter how informal or brief communications get. It’s not just the effect on those retrenched that needs to be considered but also the employees an organisation wants to retain and even attract.

Another trend recognised in the survey is one that not all executives seem to appreciate. It is that employees want their leaders to be more visible.

We see this as an important issue, not just in internal communications but with external platforms as well.

For example, many executives think talking to journalists or having a social media profile is a waste of their time.

Yet we believe nearly all stakeholders are influenced by executives who can use communication platforms confidently and sensibly. It also personalises an organisation, and, well managed, adds to its reputation and improves understanding.

On the other hand, over-exposure, particularly in the finance and corporate worlds, can be more counterproductive than no profile at all.

Communication strategies still have to be well managed so that executive exposure adds to general knowledge about an organisation, its products and plans, and are not just ego trips.

One of the other subjects addressed in the survey is the growing use of artificial intelligence (AI) in most aspects of communication.

It predicts that AI be used for such things as content development, analysing social media content and conducting media research.

There are many signs that these, and other such predictions, are already developing, and will continue to make communications professionals more valuable as strategists and managers, not just implementers.

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