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‘Old’ news, cyber attacks and shifting cultural plates – seven trends to watch

We live in an ever-changing communications landscape, where the next big trend can go from nowhere-to-be-seen to near ubiquitous in matter of days (or even hours).

Against a recent backdrop in which public trust has been tested like never before (from Trump to banking horror stories and Australian cricket disgrace), our experts give their takes on the communication trends they expect to see coming into focus in the near future.

Number crunching for the win

One of the biggest opportunities – and challenges – for many businesses will be around how they use data and whether it can become a predictive tool for them. We now have more sophisticated instruments than ever to understand sentiment from investors, customers, stakeholders and industry sectors and see how they are reacting. But in business it’s less about what happened and more about what will happen next. The new frontier is about identifying and scoring key indicators that will equip you to predict change before it occurs.

We’ve already seen the emergence of a tool like Deloitte’s iDeal, capable of using artificial intelligence to do part of the due diligence in transactions, and the rise of platforms such as dataminr.com, which has displayed a good record of predicting stock movements and virality of news stories. It’s self-evident that “you don’t know what you don’t know” but data is helping businesses fill knowledge gaps and make plans accordingly.

Warrick Hazeldine, Managing Director

Media engagement headed back to the future
With rising concerns about the impact of fake news circulating on social media, companies’ efforts to try to tell their own story will shift another gear by looking to re-engage with trusted, traditional news brands at all times in the news cycle. Regular, meaningful and face-to-face engagement with journalists and editors is, in my opinion, more important than it has ever been. Yes, this means going back to the ‘old ways’ but the antidote to fake news is detailed, thorough and credible storytelling – and that doesn’t happen without this kind of engagement.

On an entirely different note, look out for an ASX-listed company to do what luxury shoemaker Jimmy Choo did a couple of years ago when it held an entirely electronic AGM. It might not happen this year but it’s not far away. This can be a win-win for companies and investors alike – not that function room owners and caterers will agree.

Peter Klinger, Director of Media Strategy

The data war is real…and it’s going to get nastier

Australian authorities are already dealing with twice as many notifiable data breaches than they had “budgeted” for. Businesses will continue to learn – many, the hard way – that there is no substitute for preparation and that having a data breach response plan is vital.   

I also think it’s only a matter of time before a major public infrastructure or utility company is the focus of a cyber attack (as opposed to a data breach) which could have significant social and economic impacts on the community and country affected. If a water, electricity, public transport or gas supplier was targeted, it wouldn’t take long for there to be civil unrest and the potential for dramatic scenes, violence and worse. 

Low-level disruption has already been caused in the UK’s National Health Service and Ukraine’s power grid as a result of malicious attacks – it’s just a matter of time before something similar happens in Australia.

Jamie Wilkinson, data breach expert and Director of Design and Digital

Winning workers’ hearts isn’t just a sentimental victory

Culture used to be a fluffy word – a ‘nice to have’ but not critical to business success. That’s no longer the case and 2018 proved as much. The findings of the Financial Services Royal Commission focused heavily on the role of culture in misconduct. With more than 100 mentions of the word in the interim report alone, culture is arguably the single biggest contributing factor to the issues the sector is facing.

 Conversely, while trust continues to wane in big institutions like banking, media and government, research recently released in the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer shows people are increasingly turning to their employer as a trustworthy source of information and certainty in times of change.

This means there is a huge opportunity for companies to build a trusting partnership with their employees. It is up to the leadership of the company to set a positive culture that demonstrates leadership and values that win the hearts and minds of employees. But just as importantly, this culture then needs to be communicated in a way that is seen and then lived by employees in their day-to-day working lives. The companies that are able to achieve this will be the big winners in 2019.

Caroline Thomson, Director

Got a digital history? Someone will find it

I think 2019 is going to be the year of guilt by association. People are going to find their past histories are trawled over for every unfortunate photo, misplaced high school yearbook page and sad dancing video they ever did. We’ve seen examples of this already in the American system with the exposure of Judge Kavanaugh and his drinking games and the recent case of a governor whose high school yearbook had a picture of a blackface costume on his page. Such historic images and references are so easily accessible and amplified and this phenomenon is likely to flow on to companies, where they find that people they are doing business with or have done business with in the past are going to turn out to be toxic for them.

Ruth Callaghan, Chief Innovation Officer

Getting smarter about social

Social media as a broadcast platform is changing – and those platforms are moving back towards their roots of being for people and not for brands. It’s becoming increasingly hard for companies to be seen and heard on social media and that’s resulting in improved quality of content and a refined approach to leveraging organic and paid opportunities.

 I expect to see a movement away from general KPIs of number of posts per week and pre-defined content. Gone are the days of “we post a blog on a Monday and advice on Wednesday across all channels”. Companies are waking up to the difference in platform audiences and content and are tailoring messages to fit. Resources are not endless and companies need to give the people what they want, when they want and how they want it.

 Glenn Langridge, Digital Marketing Manager

Keeping it simple for your shareholders
It’s already clear that shareholder activism – in various forms – is here to stay and that was borne out by some of the recent AGM votes against remuneration reports.

 One of the trends for investor relations in 2019 will be increased transparency and simplification of disclosures. We have already seen the big banks agree to voluntarily change the way they report information, while the ASX has released a consultation paper on proposed rule changes that will benefit both companies and shareholders alike due to simplification and removal of ambiguity in listing rules.

 Andrew Rowell, Director of Investor Relations

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