Getting policy makers, customers and funders to take notice of your mission and influence them to fund your important work is an ongoing, proactive process that needs the right communications strategy coupled with the best technology tools to match the intended target audience. Here are some of the top trends from various reports that we find interesting and informative, and how we think they will affect the way you communicate about your organization in 2014.
Trend #1: Mass Media Fatigue
According to a report by the University of California, San Diego, people see about 34 billion bits of information every day, which equates to two books a day. With so much content on an endless number of platforms and consumer communications choices, how do you get your message to the right person at the right time? The answer may lie in the adoption and engagement of niche websites and networks. The major social networks (e.g. Twitter, Facebook) reach for broad markets, but there are hundreds of niche social networks that cater to groups with more focused interests (e.g. Quora connects members with high influencers in any industry). As consumers expect more and more tailored content, they will look for websites and social networks catering to their individual needs to connect with others with similar interests.
Use these niche networks as a tool to build visibility, raise brand awareness, and create a loyal following with people who are seeking what your organization offers. Click here for examples.
Trend #2: Original Self-Publishing Content
Social media has forever changed the way in which news reaches consumers. People are seeking ways to get less interruption in their lives and more content that is geared specifically to their needs, and that is suitable for and accessible on the social web. The argument is that if you focus on developing content that people want and publish it on channels you own, you’ll begin to connect directly with people who have a genuine interest in your areas of knowledge.
Reconsider the way that you use outreach budgets and resources by developing content that customers want and publishing it on channels that you own (podcasts, online radio shows, YouTube channels, blogs). Consumers will seek you out if your content adds value to their world. Invest resources in promoting your content to attract subscribers, followers and advocates. New potential customers will be more likely to engage with content if it is recommended or shared from a person within their network.
Trend #3: Go Mobile
Yes, I know we said it last year in our 2013 trends report, but there’s a reason mobile is making the list for a second year. People are moving away from desktops to smart phones and tablets in greater numbers. The Pew Internet & American Life Project reports that more than 90 percent of Americans own cell phones and 57 percent of all Americans go online using their mobile phone. The anticipated number of active mobile phones will reach 7.3 billion worldwide in 2014, which means organizations have to embrace a mobile strategy to get out their messages.
Create a mobile website with on-the-go content that is easily read and usable on a mobile device. Consider publishing annual reports as ebooks and translating content to the web in easily digestible formats that can be read on a smart phone or tablet. Customers expect real time information based on location and relevance. This will require organizations to think more in terms of one-to-one personalization. Thanks to diverse mobile media properties, organizations can now deploy customized campaigns to attract customers on the go.
Trend #4: Expanded Social Storytelling
Word-of-mouth advocacy is attributed to 20-50 percent of all brand recommendations. The trends in 2014 are clear in that people are looking for better stories with inspiring characters that are interesting; the new wave of TV and on-demand series is evidence of this. Organizations can learn from the success of shows like Breaking Bad and Netflix originals like House of Cards. As an example this past year, Chipotle and Fiona Apple set a new bar by gripping viewers in the haunting ad, "The Scarecrow", named by AdWeek as "the year's best branded-entertainment campaign".
Think about what stories your organization can tell. Does your organization have a brand strategy, and are you leveraging the successes of the thousands of customers that you have helped? Do you have storytelling tools and processes established within your organization to capture, produce and promote human interest stories and how you are impacting the lives of others?
Social media and technology trends give us insight into new ways of attracting the right customers, partners and funders. Instead of being overwhelmed by new trends, we can use them to energize our thinking about our brand strategy and how to communicate our mission and successes differently and more effectively.