It is the time of year when there are a lot of reviews of the year and predictions for what the next 12 months may bring. Not to miss out I thought I would look at what may be coming for communication professionals in 2011. But unlike many prediction blogs that I have read I decided to make this as positive as possible. There is no point in dwelling on the fact that there will be many public sector employees without jobs in 2011, unemployment will inevitably rise and we remain, as a country, in dire financial straits. Let us look to what opportunities may present themselves in the next 12 months.
1. Social networking will become just another form of communication.
During 2010, a lot of organisations have started to realise that there are big opportunities in developing social networks as a way to engage with customers. At the moment the use of social media can attract both positive and negative coverage. But that is only because it is still in its infancy and a lot of people don’t fully understand how it works or what it can bring to modern life. The next 12 months will see using social networks as a more acceptable form of communication, and given the tough economic times it will become a very cost-effective form of communication.
2. Innovation in communication will return.
Many people keep talking about the cuts that are being seen across the public sector and the impact it will have. One of the biggest opportunities that it presents is for communication professionals to become more innovative. Let’s face it anyone working in a communication role is going to have to try to achieve ‘more for less’, or so we are being told. In recent years there has been enough money available to pay for advertising and some high cost forms of communication. This is not going to be the case in 2011. Becoming more innovative to realise the required results is going to be essential.
3. Hyperlocal websites will grow in popularity.
There are many hyperlocal websites that have been established during 2011. Many individuals are now developing them and encouraging communities to get involved in sharing information and news through these sites. They are popular because they are based in very specific geographic areas and are concerned only with what happens in that area. As well as finding news and even breaking news, they can cover information that people need about services and facilities in the community. Saddleworth News had a great year and one of the memories I have is of watching their TV broadcast that covered the by-election issues and then moved into details of the sweet shop. I hope 2011 sees these sites growing in popularity and expanding what they do.
4. Local newspapers will remain as they find a new role in modern life.
There is a lot continually written about the decline of newspapers both national and local. I have a differing view. I think that 2011 will see the role of local newspapers continuing to change and diversify. It will be through this development that local newspapers will find a new place in modern life. It may not be exactly the same as they have been for the last 20 years but through exploiting opportunities on social media and the Internet it could actually strengthen them for the future.
5. There will be a growth in opportunities for strategic communication professionals.
We know that there will be tough times ahead in 2011 as the impact of cuts hits across services. It is also evident that many organisations have reduced the size of their communication teams and in many cases have removed senior communication posts. The strategic communication roles that are often the most costly to an organisation have started to disappear during 2010. I don’t doubt that this cost saving may continue during 2011. However, what it will mean is that a lot of organisations and business will need strategic communication advice, and will have to turn to external agencies for support. It is a different way of working, but there will be opportunities for consultancy work and advice.
There may be a sense of doom in the air as cuts hit, there is a VAT rise and the cost of living will increase. But in a tribute to the philosophy of ying and yang and something bad being balanced out by something good – there will be opportunities and positive elements in the next 12 months. The key for all of us, and particularly those working in communication roles, is going to be to recognise the opportunity and grab it with both hands. Finally, best wishes to everyone for 2011.