15 predictions for public sector comms in 2016… and one for 2020

3747527884_81f7e9d19a_zThe best political reporters don’t make predictions, Judi Kantor once said.

So, seeing as I’m not a political reporter for the last few years I’ve made predictions about what may happen in my corner of the internet.

Looking forward, 2016 will be my seventh year of blogging, my 23rd year in and around the media industry and fourth year in business. I’m struck by the pace of change getting faster not slower. It’s also getting harder.

Last year I made predictions for local government comms that both came true and failed. Ones I got right? Some councils no longer have a meaningful comms function. Evaluation become a case of do or die. People who bang the table and say ‘no’ to stupid requests will stand a chance. Those who don’t won’t. There are fewer press releases. Video did get more important. Customer services, social media and comms need to become best friends. Facebook pages did become less relevant unless supported by a budget for ads. Linked

I was wrong about some things. There was experimentation with social media and new platforms like Instagram, whatsapp and snapchat were experimented with. Not nearly as much as people need to.

The jury is out on content being more fractured. There are still too many central corporate accounts and not enough devolved. I’m still not sure that enough people are closing failing social media accounts.

Public sector comms in 2016…

For the last few years I’ve looked at social media in local government. But the barrier between digital and traditional has blurred and the barrier between sectors also blurs so I’ve widened it out.

The flat white economy will form part of the future. Economist Douglas McWilliams gave the tag to web-savvy freelancers and start-ups with laptops. To get things done in 2016, teams buying in time and skills for one-off projects will become more common.

There will be more freelancers. There’s not enough jobs to go around and more people will start to freelance project to project. Some will be good and some bad.

Video continues to grow massively. For a chunk of the year I talked about Cisco estimating that 70 per cent of the web would be video by 2017. By the end of the year some commentators said that figure had already been reached. People are consuming short-form video voraciously. But can you make something that can compete with cute puppies?

LinkedIn will be the single most useful channel for comms people. Twitter is great. But the convergence of job hunting, shop window and useful content will push LinkedIn ahead.

Successful teams will have broken down the digital – traditional divide. They’ll plan something that picks the best channels and not have a shiny social add-on right at the end.

Say hello to VR video. By the end of 2015, the New York Times VR – or virtual reality – videos broke new ground. These are immersive films viewed through a smartphone and Google cardboard sets. By the end of the year the public sector will start experimenting.

The most sensible phrase in 2016 will be: ‘if it’s not hitting a business objective we’re not doing it and the chief exec agrees with us.’ Teams of 20 have become teams of eight. You MUST have the conversation that says you can’t deliver what you did. It’s not weakness. It’s common sense. Make them listen. Or block off three months at a time TBC to have that stroke.

‘Nice to have’ becomes ‘used to have’ for more people. As cuts continue and widen more pain will be felt by more. Some people don’t know what’s coming down the track.

People will realise their internal comms are poor when it is too late.  Usually at a time when their own jobs have been put at risk.

Email marketing rises. More people will realise the slightly unglamorous attraction of email marketing. Skills in this area will be valued.

As resources across some organisations become thinner the chances of a fowl-up that will cost people lives increase. It probably won’t be a one-off incident but a pattern of isolated incidents uncovered much later. The kick-back when this does emerge will be immense. For organisations who have cut, when this emerges the comms team will be swamped. At this point the lack of functioning comms team will become an issue and the pedulum may swing back towards having an effective team. For organisations who have retained a team, this will be a moment to prove their worth.

Comms and PR continue to become female. A trend in 2015 was the all-female team. This will eventually percolate upwards towards leadership.

Comms and PR will get younger. Newsrooms when they lost senior staff replaced them with younger people. This trend will continue to be replicated.

As the pace of change continues training and peer-to-peer training will never be more important. Teams that survive will be teams that invest in their staff. And encourage staff to share things they are good at.

Speclaist generalists will continue to be prized. That’s the person who can be really, really good at one thing and okay to good at lots of others.

And a prediction for 2020

Those people with a willingness to learn new skills and experiment will still have a job in 2020. Those that won’t probably will be doing something else. Don’t let that be you.

Creative commons credit: https://flic.kr/p/6Ha4tJ


8 Comments on “15 predictions for public sector comms in 2016… and one for 2020”

  1. irunoffroad says:

    Youtube videos are almost the “go to” reference for anything these days but there’s also a lot of misinformation. I’m looking to include more videos in my Blog but not at the expense of some good old fashion descriptive writing🙂 Interesting read sir.

  2. stymaster says:

    I’ll do a counter-prediction: Linkedin? Nah. There’s already a backlash against it, because it’s too damned intrusive, so the signal-to-noise ratio becomes far too poor. Every man and his dog tries to connect, even if they’re completely irrelevant. It is developing a poor online reputation amongst anyone not actually looking for a new job.

    Video- yes, this will only increase, but I do hope the fad for Youtube instructional videos stabilises- many are far inferior to some thing like ifixit with step-by-step instructions and still photos.

    Email marketing- fine, but people need to play by the rules. Spamming and other poor practice will ruin your online reputation and anger the techies. marketing emails need to not be TLDR and you need to not overload people.

    Oh- Happy New Year!

    • Dan Slee says:

      Oh, always counter-predict. I’d hate it if people couldn’t throw stones. I hear what you are saying about the smappy element of LinkedIn. Someone else mentioend this too and to be honest, if that was my only experience of LinkedIn I’d enthusiastically agree. However, the usability and what I get from LinkedIn is really significant. When I’m looking for work-related content to read with a view to sharing on @comms2point0 I’ll get far more from LinkedIn these days than from Twitter. As a long-standing advocate of Twitter I really don’t say that lightly.

      Video has always been really good for instructional shorts and if it hits the spot I’ve got no problem with shakycam. The bloke from Mumbai who showed me how to change a cricket bat handle isn’t going to win a BAFTA but his 40 second clip helped me out of a hole.

      Absolutely agree on playing by the rules of email marketing. Useless email doesn’t just anger the techies it irritates everyone.

      Happy New Year too, S : )

  3. […] Anyone who has heard me speak about social media will probably realise this is a pretty big shift in attitude for me (to be honest, I only created a profile when I applied for my current job, as I thought that anyone going for a social media role who wasn’t on what was at that time the third largest social network in the world wouldn’t get a look in), so it really got me thinking as to what might have caused that change. At the same time, I also started to notice just how people have been saying that LinkedIn is growing in importance – for example, the brilliant Dan Slee even going as far as predicting LinkedIn to be the social network for comms people in2016. […]


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