5 things shaping the future of communication

On a one-to-one basis, communication is easy. We do it all the time. Whether it’s talking to friends over a drink, chatting to the checkout assistant as you pay for your shopping, or waving to a neighbour as you put out your bins.

But scaled up to a larger audience or in a corporate setting, things are decidedly more tricky. We can all think of cringeworthy examples of business leaders’ misjudging audiences and delivering their messages in a clunky fashion. When you throw evolving businesses models, new technologies and increasing use of AI into the mix, business communicators are being kept on their toes.

Here are five trends reshaping communication in a corporate setting.

1. The best communications teams use data to measure the impact of their content and messaging. New technologies are throwing up a wealth of new data sources that allow teams to better monitor their activities.

As Tim Haynes, head of people data at GSK puts it: “For a long time it’s been OK to say, well we can’t measure the impact of this communications activity because we don’t have the data. That’s no longer true. There’s so much data that it’s imperative communications teams show the value of their activities.”

But with so much data on offer, communications teams need to be able to cut through the volume and noise to find the nub of the issue – and convey that in a clear and concise way. Communicators need to ask, “What question are we trying to answer and where is the data that shows us that?”

2. Communicators need to embrace technology to help them achieve their desired outcomes: it is already embedded within society. It is changing the way we interact and relate to people. The increasing use of technology and AI in communications means human skills such as collaboration, creative thinking and problem solving will become increasingly important. Without these skills we won’t be able to use this technology to best effect.

“Technology is an opportunity,” Jane Mitchell, past IABC UK president, believes. “It frees us up to be able to use those human skills that technology just can’t deliver.”

“Technology is invisibly embedded in the world around us,” Lisa Talia Moretti, head of user research at Methods, adds. “It is making decisions on behalf of us. It is governing social life. It is also changing the very fabric of social life by changing the way that we relate and connect with other people and also how we source and collect information.”

3. Technology helps us all see the bigger picture and allows communicators to demonstrate the value they can add to solve larger issues the corporation may be facing.

“Artificial intelligence and digital opportunities are huge and growing faster and faster. We should really embrace them and say, ‘what’s out there that can help us?’ Jon Hammond managing director of the Catapult Group says. But “it has to help us with an outcome rather than just having the data for the sake of the data”, he cautions.

4. The role of communicators and communication within an organisation is becoming increasingly important, particularly in times of transformation. For businesses to thrive in the future, many leaders will need to change the way they communicate, looking at the messaging they create both internally and externally.

UK president of the IABC Howard Krais explains: “Organisations want more from their communicators. With the amount of change and transformations that are going on, organisations are looking to their communicators to really be on top of that and help connect their employees and stakeholders, internally or externally, to where organisations and brands are trying to go.”

5. Interaction and vulnerability – in terms of not knowing all the answers and presenting things as a fait accompli – are increasingly important communications skills for business leaders. In order to get people to buy into a vision and end goal, leaders need to help them understand their place in helping organisations achieve it.

Senior partner in leadership communication at Visible Leaders Colin Hatfield says: “The thing we are seeing the most of is this idea around purpose and what that means, both at an organisational level, but perhaps even more importantly how that feeds into the individual level and how people can come to work and feel as though they are doing something that’s achieving their own purpose through the mechanism of what that organisation is about.”

By Charlotte Edmond